Some officials of multi-national telecommunication company, MTN, are presently enmeshed in a forged calls log scandal in an attempt to frustrate police investigations into an abduction and assault case involving some Nigerian Army personnel.
A Nigerian man narrated to SaharaReporters how the officers of the Nigerian Army allegedly detained his driver, one Sylvester Ekpemokan, since August 2021 over a claim that he hit a military man’s car.
In an account sent to SaharaReporters, the man claimed that Ekpemokan went to work on August 10, 2021, precisely and had not returned since then, after the military men abducted and kept him in their guardroom in Benin, Edo State.
He said after making several efforts, he realised that his driver as detained at the guardroom at the Nigeria Army Headquarters, 4 MechaniSed Brigade, Benin.
According to him, one of the soldiers identified as Valentine, who ordered his driver’s detention, had asked him to bring N40,000 to facilitate his driver's release.
The man said the soldier was eventually arrested after it was revealed that he wanted to extort money from them.
He said the Nigerian Army thereafter promised to facilitate his driver’s release but nothing was done.
The man said he later reported the matter to the police who started investigation after his complaint.
He, however, said efforts to apprehend the military men behind the case proved abortive after MTN allegedly forged the call logs required to facilitate the investigation.
The man claimed the call logs were deliberately forged to exonerate the army personnel involved in the matter.
He said, “One Sylvester Ekpemokan, my Vannette bus driver, went to work since on the 8th of August (2021) and has since not returned. He called me on the 10th of August and some people were dragging the phone with him and saying, “Don't allow that man to make that call.”
“But he was able to quickly tell me that he hit a military man's Lexus Jeep rear light and that they carried him to the barracks; before I could ask which barracks, they collected the phone from him. The military man called me back with the driver's number and said “Oga, your driver hit my car and he is begging with only N15000.”
“I pleaded with the officer that I would fix his rear light for him, then he replied, “When I finish doing what I want to do to the driver, I will go and fix my car by myself” and he ended the call. We went to several barracks but couldn't find my driver until one of my church members helped me to call his friend who called an army officer called Uche Collins.
“Uche Collins requested for the missing driver's phone number and name; we sent it to him and he later called us back that the missing bus driver was inside the Nigeria Army Headquarters, 4 Mechanised Brigade and that he was brought to the guard room by one Mr Valentine also serving in the brigade. He added that Valentine alleged that the bus driver hit the rear light of his Lexus jeep. He told us that the said Valentine narrated that until the driver was able to pay N40,000 that he should not be released.
“Collins told us to come with the N40,000 the following morning so that the driver could be released. I went there with my mother the following morning, at the gate, the intelligence unit of the Brigade forced us to state our mission and we opened up to them, the man at the intelligence unit was furious and he took us to the military police to report the matter.
"The soldier who told us to bring the N40,000 was arrested and they said he wouldn't be released until he said the whereabouts of the driver and the bus. The army authorities promised me that I would see my driver in two days. After few weeks, I didn't hear from the army.
“I reported the matter to the Nigeria Police Force and the soldiers involved were invited. In the course of the investigation, the police requested for MTN call logs of all the people involved in the matter to verify the evidence against the soldiers who were now denying it. MTN brought the call logs and the call logs exonerated the suspects, despite overwhelming evidence and witnesses before the police.”
The boss of the detained driver, who preferred not to mention his name, noted that it turned out to their dismay that the call logs supplied by the MTN Company to the police were fake call logs.
He said, "I requested for the certified true copy of the call logs and I discovered that they were forged by MTN and edited to exonerate the suspects. I listed out over 65 errors; for instance, the major suspect, Uche Collins was in three different states at the same time, i.e hour, minute and second.
“MTN call logs stated that Uche Collins was in Kaduna, Benin and Niger states at the same time, minute and second on the 12th of August 2021. Meanwhile, official army records show that Collins was in Benin City throughout that day.
"We have written to the MTN Head Office twice to explain the errors; they agree that they sent the forged documents but didn't explain why. My driver who is an MTN subscriber and the bus are yet to be found. MTN’s forged call logs have undermined police investigation. We have reported them to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)"