10 March 2016

Nigeria: Senate to Grill Communications Minister, Others Over MTN Fine

The Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu will this Thursday appear before the Senate Committee on Communications to clarify the controversies surrounding the N1.04 trillion fine imposed on MTN by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Shittu is also required to provide explanation on why the N50 billion initial payment made by MTN was paid into the federal government dedicated account.

The Senate Committee on Communications had summoned the Minister and others to appear before it today, to explain all they knew about the payments and other connected matters.

Those to appear with the minister are the Executive Vice-Chairman of NCC, Professor Umar Danbatta, the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris and Chief Executive Officer of MTN, Ferdi Moolman.

The Committee had said the payment channel of the N50 billion was suspicious, because the money was paid into a designated government account for recovery of looted funds, instead of the account of NCC, which originated the fine.

"Curiously, it was reported that MTN was rather misguided to lodge the said N50 billion into the CBN Recovery Account which is specially designated for the recovered looted funds," the committee had said.

The committee was also of the view that such payment ought to have passed through NCC, but was circumvented in order to evade justice.

Shittu had been accused of holding secret meetings with MTN, which resulted in the payment of the paltry N50 billion out of the whooping N1.04 trillion fine, which was later reduced by 25 per cent to N780 billion. The Minister has however refuted the allegation of any secret meeting with MTN.

Shittu said he was summoned to clarify grey areas on the payment of N50 billion fine by MTN and the sudden withdrawal of the case by the same MTN, who had initially instituted a court case, challenging NCC over its powers to impose fine on it. He said MTN played a fast one to have gone to court, just to escape the December 31, 2015 deadline.

The minister said that he will not be intimidated, neither will his office be intimidated over the fine, as he was only invited to educate the Senate Committee on why the fines were imposed and whether the N50 billion was actually paid by MTN.

The Minister who spoke during a tour of telecoms facilities and infrastructure of MainOne, MTN and Globacom, commended the MainOne, MTN and Globacom for their operations and telecoms service delivery.

He particularly commended Globacom for introducing per second billing system, which he said, broke the jinx of prohibitive telecoms costs and gave voice to low income earners.

"Nigeria owes a debt of gratitude to Glo and we shall support you until you become an Octopus on the African continent. Given what you have done in Nigeria, I am not surprised that Glo is conquering Africa now," Shittu said.

He requested Globacom's support for technological hubs and connectivity centres government is building in several cities such as Ibadan, Katsina and later in Bayelsa, Plateau and other states.

Welcoming the Minister to Globacom head office, the Head of the Globacom delegation, Mr. Adewale Sangowawa, spoke on how the company restored fading hopes in the telecom industry by introducing per second billing and crashing the cost of acquiring SIMs from N20,000 to as low as N100.


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