Lawmakers insists bruised MTN must pay fine in full

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House of Representatives’ Committee on Communication on Wednesday vowed to ensure the payment of the N1.04 trillion fine imposed on MTN Nigeria for breaching Section 19 and 20 of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Act.

To this end, the Committee chaired by Saheed Fijabi, summoned Abubakar Malami, attorney general of the federation (AGF) and minister of justice, and chief of staff to the President (who allegedly started the negotiation) to appear before it next week.

Members of the Committee who urged whosoever was involved in the negotiation to steer clear, as the non-payment of the N1.04 trillion would truncate the expected revenue already captured in the 2016 Appropriations, which will soon be passed by the National Assembly.

Umar Dambatta, NCC executive chairman, who described the payment of the N50 billion as ‘goodwill offer,’ also noted that the Commission disagreed with the reduction of the N1.04 trillion to N780 billion.

The NCC executive chairman said the Commission’s resolve to impose the N1.04 trillion fine was a last resort, after the telecoms firm refused to comply with earlier directive to deactivate the 5.2 million of improperly registered subscribers.

He noted that the Commission provided the CD containing the data of the 5.2 million unregistered subscribers to MTN before imposing the sanction.

Dambatta, who expressed reservation on the lawmakers’ position that some of the political appointees had hijacked the negotiation process from NCC, informed the Committee that out of the N300 billion MTN agreed to pay, it only offered to pay N150 billion cash while the balance would be paid in kind, according to the letter obtained by the Commission.

While responding to question on the account the N50 billion was paid into, Dambatta said that the money was not paid into NCC‘s account.

“I do not know the account where the money was paid into. The Commission only received a letter from the Attorney-General of the Federation indicating that MTN had paid the amount into the Federal Government account,’’ Danbatta said.

While reacting to his submission, the lawmakers alleged that MTN was still in violation of the provisions of the NCC Act, as there were several unregistered SIM cards being used by kidnappers and Boko Haram to perpetuate their inhuman activities.

They also observed that the payment of N50 billion into the CBN Recovery Account should had been remitted into the NCC’s account as the regulator of the sector.

Similarly, the Committee, who noted that the era of impunity had ended with the past administration, opposed MTN’s offer and counter-offer to enlist on the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

“The law is there to serve as deterrent for you not to go against them. MTN has been trying to circumvent the process and find a way of running away from the law, instead of them facing the music,” Fijabi said.

He maintained that the House should be adequately involved in the utilisation of the proceeds of the fine and further negotiation.

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