Senate Summons AGF, Minister, CBN Gov, Others Over MTN Fine Cut | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Senate Summons AGF, Minister, CBN Gov, Others Over MTN Fine Cut

MTN, Shares; telecoms
Posted: Jun 20, 2016 at 6:10 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Rotimi Akinwumi

ABUJA – The Senate has decried what it described as unwarranted shortchanging of the nation by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) over the reduction of the fine imposed on MTN Nigeria for operational misconduct.

To this end, it has invited the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, the Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of NCC, the Accountant-General of the Federation, Minister of Communications, the Managing Director/CEO of MTN and the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to come and shed more light on the issues surrounding the settlement.

The upper legislative chamber through its Committee on Communications said it was curious to learn that the original fine of N1.04 trillion was initially reduced to N780 billion before it was finally cut down to N330 billion for the South African company without due process.

The committee lamented that the whole transactions were fraught with suspected criminal tendencies as they were perfected secretly particularly without recourse to due process.

The resentment of the Senate to the deal was contained in a letter entitled ‘Re: Settlement between NCC and MTN over Fine’, dated June 15, 2016, and addressed separately to all actors in the deal.

In the letter signed by Senator Gilbert Nnaji, the chairman of the committee, the Senate expressed dismay over the “settlement agreement of N330 billion that was reached with MTN out of a whopping N1.04 trillion” and summoned all the parties involved to appear before its committee to explain the extent of their culpability or otherwise.

“As a committee and representatives of the Nigerian people, we are saddened about this development at a time when the Nigerian economy needs all the available capital infusion to bolster it.

“It is our strong opinion that Nigeria has been shortchanged in this whole process on account of the ridiculous settlement payment plan; coupled with the disparity in the exchange rate regime when the fine was imposed ab initio compared with the current prevailing exchange rate when it was agreed to cut the fine to N330 billion,” the letter read in part.

Specifically, Senator Nnaji lamented that “NCC could engage in such a negotiation that is tainted with a lot of questionable conclusions without the knowledge of the Committee.”

The letter stated further: “The committee is worried about this development because it is on record that during our last investigative meeting with all the relevant parties to this matter on Thursday, March 10, 2016, the committee was informed that the case was still in court and that it was adjourned till March 18.

“The committee was not aware of the outcome of the court case neither was it privy to any active negotiation that led to the fine being reduced to N330 billion.

“It is our concern that Nigeria has been shortchanged in this whole process on account of the ridiculous settlement payment plan; coupled with the fact that parties involved in the negotiation were either oblivious of the exchange rate value of the Naira to the Dollar when the sanction was meted originally compared to current exchange rate regime when the value of the Naira is now on the downward slide.”

“Consequently, you are hereby invited to appear before the committee on Thursday, June 23, 2016 at 2.00 p.m prompt in Room 221, Senate New Building, to shed more light on the issues surrounding the settlement.

“You are requested to furnish the Committee with the following information to guide it in its deliberation: Document(s) detailing Presidential Directive to “accede that MTN should pay N330 billion to the Nigerian Government” as contained in paragraph 1 of your letter; Document (s) specifying evidence of negotiation such as the Terms of Negotiation; Parties to the Negotiation; Modalities for arriving at N330 billion; Minutes of Negotiation Meeting and other relevant information.

Also, “Relevant Section(s) of the NCC Act 2003 that empowers NCC to impose fines accompanied with Sections empowering the Commission to reduce fines; Detailed reason(s) for the reduction of the fine from N1.04 trillion to N780 billion to N330 billion; Detailed information on the major role(s) being played by Accountant-General of the Federation in the entire negotiation and settlement process; A copy of the Settlement Agreement; Evidence of participation of the Ministry (of Communications) and its major inputs at the Negotiation Meeting; and Evidence of out-of-court settlement between MTN and the Federal Government.

“Then for the governor of CBN as the custodian of the CBN Recovery Account into which the initial N50 billion was lodged and as a principal player in the whole process,” he is expected to present to the committee, the “current position of the Recovery Account,” the memo said.