Fred Itua, Abuja
After three failed attempts to convince the Senate’s joint committee on Finance and National Planning of transparency in the joint venture the Nigerian Television Authority ( NTA) and Startimes entered into in 2008, the panel, yesterday, ordered management team of the venture to step aside.
The committee declared that forensic audit of the account of the non-profitable venture to NTA must be carried out in unraveling the quantum of money that had been fraudulently taken out of the country within the last eleven years , estimated to be N200 billion
It also described the affected management team namely Maxwell Loko who is the Managing Director of the joint venture, Tunde Aina who serves as Chief Operating Officer (COO) and another named Emeka who is the Director of Tax and Audit, as unpatriotic Nigerians working for Startimes but receiving monthly salaries from NTA.
Trouble came the way of the management team of the joint venture when the committee interfacing with heads of government agencies on revenue projections for the N12.6 trillion 2021 budget called on them to explain why the joint venture has not yielded any profit for NTA as noted by the Director General, Yakubu Ibn Mohammed, before the committee on Monday.
The MD of the joint venture, Maxwell Loko, told the committee that he agreed that the business was not thriving because Digital Terestial Television (DTT) being operated through the venture was capital intensive as against the satellite model.
He lamented that out of the four million subscribers Startimes have, only 20 per cent were active, which according to him, made the venture unprofitable for NTA and Startimes.
But the chairman of the committee, Solomon Adeola and other members, faulted his arguments based on records obtained from the audited account reports submitted by both the NTA and the joint venture.
Attempts made by both the COO and director of tax and audit of the venture to disabuse the minds of the committee on any sharp practice failed as the members resolved they must all step aside from their current positions for forensic audit to take place.