The Senate Committee on Communications has accused some top Federal Government officials of short-changing the country by the reduction of the fine imposed on MTN Nigeria for operational misconduct by the Nigerian Communications Commission.
In a letter entitled: ‘Re: Settlement between NCC and MTN over fine’ and addressed separately to all the government officials in the deal, the committee expressed concern over the agreement for the payment of N330bn reached with MTN instead of the N1.04tn initial fine.
It, therefore, summoned all the parties involved to appear before it on Thursday to explain their role in the deal.
Those summoned include the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation; Minister of Communications; the Executive Vice Chairman, NCC; Accountant-General of the Federation; Managing Director/CEO of MTN; and Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The Chairman of the committee, Senator Gilbert Nnaji, also noted with regret that the sanction, which was originally N1.04tn, was initially reduced to N780bn before the final resolution at N330bn.
Nnaji, in the letter dated June 15, 2016, said the entire transaction was fraught with suspected criminal tendencies as it was allegedly perfected in secrecy.
The letter read in part, “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 short-changed 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 N330bn.
“We wondered why the NCC should 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 N330bn.”
The committee described the deal as ridiculous and asked the government officials to bring along documents containing the Presidential directive, which approved that MTN should pay N330bn to the government.