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Fraud uncovered at NITEL

Billions of naira siphoned out of mobile operator.

NITEL, the beleaguered Nigerian operator, has suffered fresh setbacks upon reports that its owner, Transcorp, has uncovered wide-scale fraud at the company amounting to billions of naira.

Accountants checking the books of the operator discovered that several organisations and government agencies were paying for NITEL services with token payments going to unnamed people.

Dayo Ojo, corporate communications manager of Transcorp, told local news daily This Day that the routine checks had revealed a number of loopholes in the company's accounting processes, saying "the carrier had a lot of organisations actually connected to and using its services without paying for the services because the inflow was not commensurate with the services NITEL was rendering to them."

Accountants have been given 30 days to outline a resolution to the problem, and Transcorp will not inject fresh funds into the operator. This has raised new concerns of another strike by employees, and Ojo said the owner will meet with worker representatives to explain the issue at hand.

NITEL has seen its share of problems in the market; workers recently went on strike because they had not been paid for months, forcing Transcorp to capitulate and hash out a deal with labour unions. Nitel and its counterpart mobile operation, M-Tel, are trailing far behind local rivals, MTN Nigeria, Globacom and Celtel.