MTN not under obligation to pay N1.4tr fine, says justice minister

MTNMinister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami, yesterday said the N1.4 trillion fine slammed on Mobile Telecommunications Network (MTN) by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) should not be considered a fine that is binding on the outfit.

Malami, who was quizzed for several hours by members of the Saheed Akinade Fijabi-led committee over his role in the out-of-court settlement with MTN, maintained that such monies could only be termed as a fine based on a pronouncement of a law court.

Malami also contended that his resolve to wade into the issue surrounding the out-of-court settlement was in line with the provisions of Sections 86 and 87 of the NCC Act which permits him as a key operative of the Executive arm to exercise such oversight function.

Arguing that the language of the NCC Act on violation should not be misconstrued to be committal of an offence, he said: “What has been imposed by the NCC is not a fine in the strict sense, it was a penalty and substantially certain part of the NCC Act was categorical on that. So, a penalty is different from a fine because a fine can only be imposed by a court of law after due determination of a penal case when an offence of guilt is eventually entered. So, what has been happening about the imposition of the NCC is an imposition of penalty and not a fine.

“The determination of the commission of an offence or otherwise of an offence is the discretion of a court of law. In the absence of such pronouncement of a court of law regardless of the issue at stake, one cannot jump to conclusions that an offence has been committed. So further rider to Sections 86 and 87 of the NCC Act.”

He also justified why he ordered that the N50 billion initial payment by MTN be lodged in the asset recovery account as against lodging it into the consolidated revenue account that belongs to the three tiers of government.

Insisting that he had not violated the constitution, which specifies that all government monies be paid into the consolidated revenue account, he said that the out-of-court negotiation with MTN is yet to be conclusive.

Faulting the notion that he had usurped the powers of the NCC going by the role he played on the issue, he said as far as he was concerned, there is yet to be an out of court deal with MTN.
He said: “I have never made reference to the inconclusiveness of negotiations. I stated clearly that no negotiations had taken place. They only put their positions in writing and accordingly circulated to the stakeholders.

However, Malami opted to remain silent when confronted by the lawmakers that he erred in law since Sections 88 and 89 of the constitution prescribed that monies belonging to the government should be paid into the consolidated revenue account.

This prompted the lawmakers to summon the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, to appear tomorrow to shed light on the whereabouts of the N50 billion initial payment by MTN.

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  • Rev

    This guy is a character…Wow…So he is subjecting the law to his own interpretation because he has probably pocketed some kickbacks from MTN.

  • amador kester

    Flagrantly abusing the constitution, the ultimate law he is trying to interprete technically to enthusiastically get mtn off the noose, what efforts then has he made in his oversight functions to re engineer the ncc regulatory acts to become more enforceable? This man should not be there for boldly violating section 88 of the constitution he is sworn to defend as agf.. At least he is ignorant or contemptuous of the constitution and thats preposterous enough for any nation with integrity

  • utolason

    Someone actually described this attorney general as a “charge and bail lawyer”. I can now see the point of that. Listening to him, you wonder whether he ever read and understand the constitution sufficiently for the role he has been given. That he doesn’t know where all federal monies are paid is a telling example of his inadequacy.

    Also the NCC penalty is well understood by MTN and NCC as to what it it is. A penalty is a punishment imposed for breaking a law, rule, or contract. In the MTN case, it is a punishment for breaking a rule and contract entered into by all parties in the industry. Attempting to bring technicality which neither help MTN or NCC is evidence of someone who has been compromised. Whether the common man call it a fine or penalty is irrelevant so long as parties involved are clear as to what it is.

    • emmanuel kalu

      very well said and much better said that the supposed minister of justice. this is what we get when we elected foolish people.

  • christopher edeimu

    This is a big ridicule to the country. It is no wonder MTN can do what it is doing, disregarding the lawful body that can sanction it. That a fine comes only from the court of law is very very laughable. This minister should be removed from office, period.

  • honesty NO1

    This JUSTICE MINISTER MUST BE INVESTIGATED ! ! !. If he is found guilty of any wrong doing HE MUST BE STONED TO DEATH ! ! !

  • emmanuel kalu

    whoa only in Nigeria. a regulatory agency finally does it job, and everyone with some kind of power is trying to change the rule. Nigeria rejoiced that our regulatory agency is actually doing it work. now this foolish elected official are all trying to find a way to get their pocket greased. isn’t there a lot of crime this stupid minister can be focus on instead of monkeying around in a good regulatory action and fine. until Nigerian voter completely remove all this old useless politician from office, they would continue to destroy our country.

  • Boski

    I’m not a lawyer, but definition is very critical in legal profession. What he did was to correct the lawmakers interpretation of what NCC did, period! In terms of the money not paid into central account, l think the constitution is been taken too far. The full amount will have to be paid to whatevet the NCC rules says in conjuction with the constitution. The house should be more concern about its safety. Until that time the money ought to be kept in a safe account known to all stakeholders