The House of Representatives Committee on Telecommunications, probing the transactions of the N1.04 trillion fine imposed on MTN Nigeria by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) for violating SIM subscription and registration rules, on Tuesday, faulted the roles so far played by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami, saying that he acted wrongly
The Honourable Saheed Akinade-Fijabi-led committee also descended heavily on Mallami on the part payment of N50 billion by the MTN into the Federal Government account, tagged: “Federal Government Assets Recovery Account,” rather than paying into the Consolidated Revenue Account of the Federation, in line with the constitution.
According to the committee, “that account is illegal, it is against the constitution of the land. The laws says all government monies must be paid into the Consolidated Account of the Federation. We have to summon the Minister of Finance on the operation of the account.”
Consequently, the committee summoned the Finance Minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, to appear before it on Thursday, to explain the rationale for lodging the money into an illegal account.
However, while Justifying his action on the fine saga, Malami quoted sections 150 and 170 of the Constitution, which empowered him to take actions necessary for the safeguard of peace and economic interest of Nigeria as the number one law officer of the country.
While clarifying the position of the transaction, Mallami, who protested that it was not his office that opened the controversial bank account, said “I take an exception to that. I did not open any account, it was the Ministry of Finance. As we speak, no negotiation has been concluded over MTN matter.”
According to him, “all matters were subjected to the withdrawal of the case from court by MTN and showing of good faith and it agreed to do so and subsequently paid the sum of N50 billion into the Federal Government’s account, and not the account of the Ministry of Justice.”
Minister of Communication, Adebayo Shittu, had earlier told the committee that his ministry played no role whatsoever in the process leading to the payment of the said N50 billion, adding that he only knew about the issue as highlighted in the letter sent to him from the Minister of Justice, which he had submitted to the committee previously.
“We from the Ministry of Communication are happy to be here again in answering your call. During the last sitting, according to the correspondence we got from the Ministry of Justice, we don’t have anything new to add to what we gave at the last sitting of this committee.
“At the last sitting, in answering your question, we presented a letter from the Ministry of Justice as signed by one Mr Abidoye on behalf of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
“It is obvious that we don’t have any additional information because if we had, we would have provided. And it’s because we never played any role in this whole negotiation,” he said.
However, the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr Ahmed Idris, confirmed the lodgement of the N50 billion into a certain government account which was verified from the Central Bank of Nigeria.
According to him, “as we monitored the system, being the custodian of the treasury, we discovered a lodgement of N50 billion on February 24, 2016 and found out that it was from MTN. We enquired from the CBN and it was confirmed that yes, the money came from MTN.”
He said the said account into which the money was paid “is under the watch of his office and it’s titled: “Federal Government Assets Recovery Account.”
The lawmakers condemned the whole transactions without involving the NCC and the Ministry of Communication and warned the Minister of Justice to desist from such action in the overall interest of the country.
The Chief Executive Officer of MTN, Mr Freddy Moolman, also apologised to the lawmakers for ignoring their invitation, adding that his action was not deliberate but was informed by a personal emergency he had to attend to in South Africa at the time of the hearing.
The committee was forced to adjourn sitting till tomorrow over power failure.Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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