Senate Committee on Communications has decried the manner in which Nigeria was shortchanged in the reduction of the fine imposed on MTN for operational misconduct by the Nigeria Communications Commission, NCC.
The sanction which originally attracted N1.04 trillion was initially reduced to N780 billion before pegging it at N330 billion. But the committee noted that the transaction was fraught with suspected criminal tendency as it was perfected secretly and without recourse to due process.
In a letter titled RE: SETTLEMENT BETWEEN NCC AND MTN OVER FINE, dated June 15 and addressed separately to all those concerned, the Senate Committee Chairman, Gilbert Nnaji, expressed dismay over the “settlement agreement of N330 billion reached with MTN out of a whooping N1.04 trillion” and as such summoned all the parties involved to appear before the committee to explain their extent of culpability or otherwise.
He noted that “as a committee and representative of the people, we are saddened about this development at a time when the economy needs all the available capital infusion to bolster it. It is our strong opinion that Nigeria has been shortchanged 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 it to N330 billion.”
Specifically, Senator Nnaji lamented that “NCC could 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 relevant parties to this matter on Thursday, March 10, the committee was informed that the case was still in court and that it was adjourned till March 18. It 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 N330 billion.
‘‘It is our concern that Nigeria has been shortchanged in this whole process on account of the ridiculous settlement payment plan coupled with the fact that parties involved in the negotiation were either oblivious of the exchange rate value of the naira to the dollar when the sanction was meted out originally compared to the current exchange rate regime when the value of the naira is now on the downward slide.
‘‘Consequently, you are hereby invited to appear before the Committee on Thursday, June 23, at 2pm prompt in Room 221, Senate New Building, to shed more light on the issues surrounding the settlement. You are requested to furnish the committee with the following information to guide it in its deliberation: Document(s) detailing a presidential directive to “accede that MTN should pay N330 billion to the Nigerian government” as contained in paragraph 1 of your letter; document(s) specifying evidence of negotiation such as the terms of negotiation; parties to the negotiation; modalities for arriving at N330 billion; minutes of the negotiation neeting and other relevant information; relevant Section(s) of the NCC Act 2003 that empowers NCC to impose fines accompanied with the sections empowering it to reduce fines; detailed reason(s) for the reduction of the fine from N1.04 trillion to N780 billion to N330 billion; detailed information on the major role(s) being played by the Accountant-General of the Federation in the entire negotiation and settlement process; a copy of the settlement agreement; evidence of participation of the ministry of communications and its major inputs at the negotiation meeting; and evidence of out-of-court settlement between MTN and the federal government.
“The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, as the custodian of the CBN Recovery Account into which the initial N50 billion was lodged and as a principal player in the whole process, he is expected to present to the committee, the Current position of the Recovery Account”, the memo revealed.
Those summoned include the minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation, executive vice chairman/CEO of NCC, accountant-general of the federation, minister of communications, the managing director/CEO of MTN and governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

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