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MTN Fine Reduction: Senate Smell Rat, Summons Malami, Others

Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja

Senate, Thursday, summoned the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to appear before its Committee on Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to answer to allegation of complicity in the handling and unilateral reduction of a N1.04Trn fine against MTN.

The above decisions followed a Point of Order raised by the Chairman, Committee on NCC, Senator Gilbert Nnaji, during the Plenary.

Presenting the Point of Order, Nnaji recalled that in October 2015, in line with the NCC Registration of Telephone Subscribers Regulation, 2011, the NCC imposed a fine of N1.04 trillion on MTN.

He said the fine was imposed in view of the failure of the service provider to deactivate 5.2 million unregistered subscribers on its network.

He added that sections 19 and 20 of the NCC Registration of Telephone Subscribers Regulation 2011 did not empower the Commission or any other entity or government officials to reduce any imposed fine.

“This fine was unilaterally reduced from N780 billion without the input of the Ministry of Communication and the NCC. This constitutes a flagrant breach of this regulation and an attempt to whittle down the authority of the Ministry and Commission through some negotiation process.

“But championed by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, MTN was requested to pay a some of N50 billion as a gesture of good faith towards the settlement of the fine. This created attendant confusion over the veracity of the said N50 billion by MTN and the domiciliation of the money in a CBN recovery account.

“The domiciliation of the money in a CBN recovery account was done as if the money in question was stolen fund. This prompted the Committee to embark on a fact finding meeting of all stakeholders involved on March 10, 2016,” he said.

Nnaji said that the Committee also discovered that there was an agreement between MTN, the attorney general of the federation, the Accountant-General of the Federation to further reduce the fine from N780 billion to N50 billion as the commencement of the execution of a final agreement of N300 billion.

He expressed displeasure about the development, adding that it was coming at a time when the Nigerian economy needed all available capital infusion to bolster it.

The Point of Order was unanimously adopted by the lawmakers, although there were no debates on the matter.

In his remarks, the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, directed the  Chairman, Committee on Communication to carry out its investigation and report back to Senate within two weeks.

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