Ministers shun Reps meeting over MTN fine


The efforts of the Hon. Saheed Fijabi-led House Committee on Communications to unravel the reasons for the huge reduction of the N1.04 trillion to N330 billion did not yield dividend.

Two ministers important to the investigation, the Minster for Communications, Adebayo Shittu and the Minister for Justice and Attorney- General of the Federation were conspicuously absent at the fact- finding session, effectively truncating the session.

Only the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Mr. Abubakar Dambata and his Director of Communications, Tony Ojobo were present at the session.

This is the fifth meeting on the fine issue, without any resolution.

Fijabi told the meeting that the Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami sent a letter that he would be representing the President at an event in Lagos and would therefore be absent from the meeting.

The Minister for Communication, Adebayo Shittu did not appear at the session as at the time the closed- door session began, even though he was said to be expected.

ALSO SEE: MTN agrees to pay FG N333bn over three years

Fijabi expressed his disappointment on the issue wondering why the huge reduction on the fine from N1. 04 trillion to N330 billion came to be.

He said the condition attached to the reduction that MTN trades on the Nigerian Stock Market ” is a business benefit to MTN.”

He further observes:  “I don’t think NCC alone can face the questions.

This is going to be the last meeting as the parties are not here.”

The lawmaker said the committee would go ahead with the writing of its report and subsequently submit it to the House.

The meeting then dissolved into a closed- door meeting .

An MTN source said that they were not invited for the meeting, “only Government people were invited,” she said.

Recall that the Reps committee had rejected the offer of the service provider MTN to pay N330bn instead of the N1.04 trillion it was fined by the Federal Government.

The chairman of the Committee. Saheed Fijabi had wondered why the sudden shift in the position of the NCC on the MTN fine.

ALSO SEE: Why FG suspended talks on MTN fine

NCC had in a March 1 2016 memo said: ” The proposal to pay the sum of N300 billion as against the N1.04 trillion ( and subsequently reduced to N700 billion by the Federal Government of Nigeria “FGN”) is not supported by any verifiable justification.”

However, efforts by the committee to investigate the reason for the huge reduction has been hampered by the absence of one government official or the other at the different meetings it had called on the issue.

At a previous meeting the committee chair had noted that it was wrong to accept a reduction while the House was investigating the ongoing negotiations between the Federal Government and MTN on the fine.

He had said “As a House, we have opposed the reduction of the fine because there is no provision in the NCC’s Act that the fine can be reduced. In fact, section 21 of the Act stipulates that even the CEO of a defaulting firm can be made to pay additional fine of over
N200,000 on each of the lines.”

The lawmaker had said ordinarily, MTN’s total fine “should be doubled to about N3 trillion and not even the N1.4 trillion they were asked to pay.”