Senate to unmask faces behind MTN N50bn payment, says Nnaji

From Fred Itua, Abuja

THE Senate has revealed its plans to unmask those behind the payment of N50 billion by the Mobile Telecommunication Network (MTN) to the Federal Government.
The Red Chamber is also interested to know why MTN was directed to pay the money into a recovery account instead of channelling it through the regulatory agency, the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC).
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Gilbert Nnaji, said the assurance became necessary following reports that the matter had been laid to rest due to the absence of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, at the investigative hearing of committee on Thursday.
NCC in October 2015 imposed a fine of N1.04 trillion on MTN for contravening the directive on the deactivation of 5.2 million unregistered subscribers on its network.
MTN was, however, reported to have paid N50 billion into Federal Government coffers as part of a deal to resolve the matter.
But Nnaji said most members of the Communications Committee saw the action of the Minister of Justice, in relation to the controversial N50 billion payment by MTN, as ā€œnot only at variance with the anti-corruption stance of the Federal Government but a deliberate attempt to undermine Nigeriaā€™s integrity and subject her to public ridicule in a bid to impress South Africa.ā€
He insisted that no amount of sentiments would deter the committee from unmasking all those behind the ā€œnational embarrassment.ā€
Nnaji noted that the Committee queried the intentions of the Attorney-General ā€œin unilaterally opening a special new account with a name that had no correlations with the issue at hand and then ordering MTN to credit same despite the existence of Treasury Single Account (TSA).
He added that it is the committeeā€™s view that ā€œif there were no ulterior motives, the Ministry of Justice could have gone through streamlined processes of among others, routing the money through NCC with sufficient notice to the Ministry of Communications instead of deliberately sidelining the major stakeholders on the matter and circumventing the extant laws guiding public financial administration.
ā€œThis is one transaction that has generated public suspicion compelling the Committee to invite all relevant stakeholders to this meeting for adequate clarifications to be made on the issue,ā€ he said.

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