Senate Fault Mtn Part Payment Into Recovery Account, Chides Agf

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BEVERLY HILLS, March 10, (THEWILL) – The Senate has faulted the part payment of MTN Nigeria's fine by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) into a ‘Recovery Account’ as against the Treasury Single Account (TSA).

The Senate Committee on Communications also alleged fraudulent practices by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Accountant General of the Federation and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over the payment.

This was revealed on Thursday during an investigative session of the Senate Committee on Communications with MTN, Federal Ministry of Communications and NCC on controversies surrounding the fine.

According to the Committee, rather than allow NCC enforce the fine, circumvented the process by entering into different arrangement of N300 billion payment by the communication firm from an initial N1.04 trillion fine, which was later reduced to N780 billion.

The new proposal tabled before the committee by the representative of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Dayo Apata, entails payment of N300 billion as against N780 billion, out of which N50 billion was paid by MTN into a special recovery account opened by the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation with the CBN on the instruction of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.

The Committee Chairman, Gilbert Nnaji queried the representative of the Attorney- General for the out of court arrangement without carrying along NCC and the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, who admitted that neither his ministry nor NCC, was carried along in the N300billion resettlement arrangement by MTN.

The Committee therefore frowned at the development, saying the minister and the regulatory body, NCC, should have been carried along.

According to the 13-page document titled: “Re: Settlement Proposal From MTN Nigeria in Respect of Fine Imposed By NCC against It,” and signed by Solicitor- General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Taiwo Abiodun, on behalf of the AGF, Abubakar Malami, the N300billion is to be paid in tranches from this year till December 31st 2020.

“The parties have agreed that the N50billion paid in good faith and without prejudice by MTN Nigeria on 24th February 2016, in order to commence settlement/ negotiation, will form part of the monetary empowerment of this settlement.

“In five equal and annual instalment between the date of execution of this agreement and 31st December 2020, MTN Nigeria, shall pay a total of N100billion by electronic fund transfer to the federal government recovery account of the Central Bank of Nigeria. These payments will commence by 31st December 2016 and be made by 31st December of each subsequent year.”

MTN further explained that the remaining N150billion would be used for participation in sovereign bond purchase and provision of access to fibre network.

Though representative of the Attorney – General explained that the proposal remains a proposal since the matter is still in court, the committee accused him, Accountant General of the Federation and CBN of short-changing the country in the matter with the acceptance of N50 billion paid into the Recovery Account.

Story by David Oputah