Nigerian tech investor, Victor Asemota, has said that presidential aspirant, Bola Tinubu, did not bring Econet Wireless (now Airtel) to Nigeria.
The techpreneur’s comments came after the All Progressives Congress’ national leader, claimed that he played a significant role in the Nigeria telecom service by bringing Econet to the country during the presidential screening of the party.
According to Asemota, Lagos State was only instrumental in its [Econet] founding by acquiring secondary shares after many deliberations.
Asemota further explained that the former Lagos State governor did not even commit to Cybertel, Econet’s initial founding trading name in the country, until Delta State, Oceanic and David Edevbie did most of the work.
Whereas, Tinubu told the APC presidential screening panel, “There are three highways in the development of a nation. If you have gas or supplying diesel, electricity transmission is also a highway and communication.
“I could remember that I brought Eron to this nation. Telecommunication is now a success today in Nigeria. I brought Econet. I helped them; they now want to adopt 5G; we started it.
“Nigeria is rich. The essence of our livelihood must be placed on short-term and medium-term values. They must produce values for us,”
Asemota, who worked with Econet during its early days, spoke on how Econet Wireless came into the country.
”My uncle held a party for Tony Anenih Jr. after his wedding in 2000 in Benin City.
“Many new state governors were in town and came for the party. He got five of them into his bedroom and pitched a company called ‘CyberTel’, which was supposed to bid for a GSM license.
“Only Delta State was very keen on it. The others told us that they would get back. Cybertel merged into the First Independent Networks Limited consortium, which was started by Bolaji Balogun and his team at City Securities Limited. It was a harrowing period,” he revealed.
He further explained that he had to travel to Delta and Akwa Ibom to ensure that the state’s commitment as FINL, which was 60% of the licence holding company, and 40% for the foreign partners, were enacted.
He continued, “We later selected a small company from Zimbabwe called Econet because we felt it was easier.
“Econet was supposed to bring 40% of the license money and the technical know-how. That 40% never came. It was excuse after excuse. We had the equity agreement as a shareholder and technical services agreement as operator of the license. We finally had to go back to the states.
“The initial structure we had proposed was for the licensed entity, Econet Wireless Nigeria owned by FINL and the technical partner to own 60% of the operating entity Econet Wireless Mobile and the remaining 40% coming into that entity from states like Delta and AKSG.”
Asemota further revealed that the operator’s 40% was not coming and other shareholders had to leverage HIIT and state governments that initially covered a $285m licence fee that they didn’t bargain for.
This development made the shareholders approach the states.
Oando, according to the tech investor, was a shareholder, adding that Wale Tinubu, the founder of Oando, allowed Lagos State to purchase secondaries.
“That was the extent of the Lagos State involvement in the deal. His relative was the state governor, making it easier for OANDO to convince them. Tinubu didn’t even commit to Cybertel initially. Delta State and Oceanic saved ECONET. David Edevbie saved us all,” he concluded.