Fuming members of the House of Representatives Committee on Telecommunications on Monday summoned the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami; and his Communications counterpart, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, over the negotiated settlement of N330bn to be paid to the Federal Government by MTN Nigeria.
The committee also summoned the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof. Umaru Danbatta, and all the other stakeholders involved in the negotiations with MTN.
The NCC had fined the telecommunications company N1.04tn for failure to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered Subscriber Identification Module cards
But, following protracted negotiations coordinated by Malami’s office, a reduced fine of N330bn was arrived at and made public on Friday.
The development came amid an ongoing investigation into the N1.04tn fine by the House. The legislature had insisted that the telecommunications firm should pay the fine in full.
Soon after the news of the N330bn broke on Friday, the committee, through its Chairman, Mr. Saheed Fijabi, summoned Shittu to appear before it on Monday (yesterday) to explain how his ministry sidelined the House to arrive at the amount.
However, the minister sent the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Sunny Echono, to give the ministry’s position on the matter.
Echono’s explanations only got the lawmakers infuriated, as they pointed out that the negotiators committed breaches of the 1999 Constitution, the NCC Act, 2013 and the Telecommunications Subscribers Regulations Act, 2011.
The permanent secretary simply told the angry lawmakers that the N330bn was agreed by all the parties after a series of meetings.
He also said that the amount had the backing of the “government at the highest level.”
Echono said, “Government has approved the N330bn as a full and final settlement of the fine to be paid by MTN. This negotiation has the blessing of the highest level of government and it is conclusive.
“This came out of a series of negotiations between all the parties led by the office of the AGF.”
Although, the permanent secretary admitted that the House was investigating the fine, he argued that the executive arm of government was not prevented from carrying out any negotiations that could resolve the dispute.
“The House committee’s investigation is independent of whatever actions the executive arm of government will take”, Echono maintained.
Members were further taken aback when the NCC’s Director of Public Communications, Mr. Tony Ojobo, said the agency completely adopted the brief of the permanent secretary.
He added, “I concur with everything the permanent secretary has said. I agree with what the government has done.
“The permanent secretary has given a detailed explanation and he also referred to the briefing the minister gave to the House when he (Shittu) appeared for the sectoral debate.”