MTN sacked me for reporting ‘fraud’ to EFCC, ex-manager tells court
A former General Manager for Internal Audit at MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, Thuli Mashanda, has told the National Industrial Court of Nigeria that the company sacked her because she reported an alleged act of fraud to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Testifying for a former Network Group Operations Manager, Mr Paul Odunewu, who sued MTN, Mashanda said her employers were not happy when she made a report to the anti-graft agency.
Odunewu accused the company of withholding his entitlements, including a long-term incentive scheme (share option) worth over $13.14 million (about N2.1 billion). He is also demanding N100 million damages, among others.
The embattled manager said despite being responsible for MTN’s initial growth in Nigeria – having been persuaded to return home from the United Kingdom (UK) to develop telecommunication in Nigeria – he became a victim of racism in the company and his contract subsequently terminated.
“I built the engine of the defendant’s business in Nigeria, including people and process technology,” Odunewu said.
Corroborating Odunewu’s testimony that some MTN’s workers were allegedly victimised, Mashanda, a South African, said she was improperly queried for doing what she thought was right, and was eventually fired.
She said: “The query was improper because I reported fraud to the EFCC when they stole money. MTN did not want that to happen because the whites were transferring money illegally out of MTN Nigeria abroad. Hence, they terminated my employment.”
Mashanda said she became a victim of her professionalism, adding: “I don’t recall that I parted in good terms with the company because I was doing the work that I was paid to do.”.
Defendants in the suit are: MTN Group Limited, South Africa; MTN Nigeria and MTN International, Mauritius.
Odunewu said prior to the “malicious” termination of his appointment, his impeccable record and achievements at MTN came under serious attacks in 2006 from “a group of white South African racists posted to Nigeria to oversee Network Group Management”.
He said a particular white South African expatriate was “perturbed and astonished by the wealth of experience displayed by the claimant and set out on a collision course with him”.
Matters got to a head when Odunewu said he received a letter, dated February 28, 2006, purportedly terminating his appointment. His access to MTN network was revoked.
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