From Fred Itua, Abuja
THE Senate has summoned the Minister of Communication Technology, Adebayo Shittu and the Attorney- General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to shed light on their involvement in the claim that the MTN has paid N50 billion to the Federal Government.
Also summoned is the Executive Vice-Chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria.
The invitation was contained in a statement endorsed by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, Gilbert Nnaji.
The statement tagged: “Urgent legislative intervention on the alleged controversial payment of N50 billion by MTN with regard to the fine of N780 billion imposed on it by NCC,” It was dated March 3, 2016.
The committee said it did not have any proof of receiving the money, noting it was reported that MTN was rather misguided to lodge the N50 billion into the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Recovery Account which is specially designated for recovered loots.
The committee said such payment, if actually well-intended, ought to have passed through the NCC instead of circumventing the regulatory agency in the overall process, expressing worry that “the rushed payment and subsequent withdrawal of the MTN-instituted legal action is not only suspicious, but constitutes a grave economic and financial infraction as well as brazen breach of due process in relation to payment of fines.
The development, it said, calls for a serious investigation in line with the zero-tolerance for corruption stance of the Federal Government. The committee noted that it had to take legislative intervention given the public outcry trailing the transaction.
It said that as part of its statutory obligations, the committee has risen to the challenge of comprehensively reviewing the circumstances surrounding the entire process to strengthen the records and also ensure that the country was not short-changed.
The statement reads in parts: “The attention of the Senate Committee on Communications has been drawn to widespread media publications particularly, quoting the Honourable Minister of Communication Technology, Adebayo Shittu, as claiming that the Mobile Telecommunications Network, MTN, Nigeria Limited has made a downpayment of N50 billion to the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, relative to the fine of N780 billion that was imposed on the service provider by the agency.
“The committee wishes therefore, to state clearly that going by the records of NCC whose constitutional mandate it is to superintend the mobile network operations in the country, and also in the prevailing circumstance, reserves the sole right on behalf of the Federal Government, to receive payment of any sort; MTN has unfortunately not in any way complied or shown any commitment whatsoever in this regard,” the statement noted.