From Fred Itua, Abuja
THE Senate Committee on Communications has decried the manner Nigeria was ‘shortchanged’ over the reduction of the fine imposed on MTN for operational misconducts by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
The N1.04 trillion sanction was initially reduced to N780 billion before it was finally slashed to N330 billion.
The Committee alleged that the transaction was fraught with criminal tendencies, insisting that it was perfected secretly, particularly without recourse to due process.
In a letter entitled Re: Settlement between NCC and MTN over fine, dated June 15, 2016, and addressed separately to all involved in the deal, chairman of the committee, Gilbert Nnaji, expressed dismay over the “settlement agreement of N330 billion which was reached with MTN out of a whopping N1.04 trillion.” It summoned all the parties involved to appear before the committee to explain their extent of 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 committee said.
Specifically, 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 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.
Those summoned include 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 (CBN).