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‘Gallant law officers unhappy with corrupt politicians’ – Strive Masiyiwa

Derick Matsengarwodzi    HARARE – Often, when ‘giants’ engage in corrupt battles, the noble ones usually suffer. The controversia...

Derick Matsengarwodzi 
HARARE – Often, when ‘giants’ engage in corrupt battles, the noble ones usually suffer.

The controversial departure of Econet Wireless from Lagos is a classic model. After an enquiry into the matter, one senior investigator was subsequently demoted to an ordinary policeman role for his noble role in trying to stop the rot. The sordid revelations are contained in the telecommunications mogul’s write-up series which Tinzwei has been religious following.    

The root of evil
“After we left the country, a few noble people at the company tipped off not only me but the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) about the payment of the bribes, which had by this time risen from $9m to $13,5m.”

A team of very senior EFCC officers visited Masiyiwa in South Africa. They were solid and professional in their enquiry – it was clear to him they were eager for justice. However, when these officers returned home to Nigeria, they got into very serious trouble.

According to the Econet boss’s revelations accessed by Tinzwei, James Ibori – the Governor of Delta State knew of their intentions, resulting in the most senior officer being demoted and sent to a remote part of the country as an ordinary policeman.

However, he was quick to praise noble officers who persevere, despite the challenges they encounter in their operations.

Abolishing corruption begins with you
 “Agencies like EFCC in Nigeria sometimes have brave and gallant law enforcement officers. 

Unfortunately, as I observed, they’re often let down by their political bosses, and sometimes even by the courts. This can change if activism from the citizenry emerges to support their work.

We should not only support official efforts to stop corruption but also help these agencies and organisations in their investigations. If you have relevant information about illegal activities, passing it on could make all the difference between impunity and imprisonment.”

He explains how he sought for justice.

“In my letter to the US Justice Department, I detailed the full history of the demands for bribes. I had dates, times and records. I then reminded them that since the big international operator had a listing on the New York Stock Exchange, they were duty-bound to launch an enquiry.

The United States government has a law called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act – so as United Kingdom, called the British Anti-Bribery Act. Whatever you do, make sure you never break those laws because they may use them against you.” 

In pursuit of justice
Soon after, events began to unfold.

“A few weeks later, US officials wrote back advising me that an enquiry had been launched. They contacted the international company seeking answers to my allegations. My contacts at the company called saying: “All hell has broken loose.”

The parent company of the South African-based multinational sent external auditors and lawyers from London to Nigeria. They immediately dismissed all the senior executives in Nigeria, after admitting even to both the US Justice Department and the EFCC that the ‘illegal’ money had been paid out.”

Sadly, Econet could not return to Lagos.

“Meanwhile, the departure of the other mobile operator did not mean we could return to Nigeria. The shareholders found another operator – and sold the control of the company even though Econet Wireless Nigeria had the “right of first refusal” over any sale.”

Regardless of all this, Masiyiwa was willing to pursue justice.

“Shareholders simply ignored that provision in our agreement. This was illegal, both according to our shareholders agreement and Nigerian Company Law. It was left for us to take up the fight in another forum – the Nigerian courts.” – Tinzwei

• This text cannot be reproduced without prior consultation with the author. Derick Matsengarwodzi is a communication consultant, author – and founder of The Aloe Media. Let’s interact on: Facebook or Follow me on: or

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