Reps summon MTN chief, CBN gov again over N1. 4tr fine

Mr. Ferdinand Moolman

Mr. Ferdinand Moolman

• NCC lifts sanctions on firm’s regulatory services

The House of Representatives has again summoned the Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria Communication Limited, Mr. Ferdinand Moolman to offer explanations surrounding the out-of-court settlement with the Federal Government over the payment of the N1. 4 trillion fine.

The lawmakers also expressed dissatisfaction with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, over his inability to shed light on the controversial deal involving the Chief of Staff to the president, Mr. Abba Kyari, and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice , Mr. Abubakar Malami.

Meanwhile, there were indications yesterday that the NCC had restored regulatory services to MTN Group, while negotiations in the payment of the N780 billion ($3.9 billion) fine imposed on the latter continued.

The MTN Group confirmed this in a statement, saying: “The Nigerian Communications Commission has lifted the suspension on regulatory services to MTN Nigeria.”

It also read: “This restoration of regulatory services will enable MTN Nigeria to pursue the necessary approvals, in accordance with the NCC regulatory process, for new tariff plans and promotions as well as other regulatory matters.”

The company’s Group Public Affairs Manager, Chris Maroleng, signed the statement.

The NCC had prevented MTN from raising tariffs and launching promotions in October 2015 when it fined the company N1.04 trillion ($5.2 billion) for failing to cut off 5.1 million unregistered Subscriber Identification Module cards in Nigeria.

The NCC suspended services to MTN for failure to meet phone-service quality standards.

When the lower legislative chamber via its Committee on Telecommunications reconvened yesterday, they issued a fresh summons on the duo to personally appear before the committee to clarify salient issues relating to the out of court settlement at a date to be communicated to them in due course.

Both Malami and Kyari who were billed to appear to shed light on their role in the deal were nowhere to be seen while the committee session lasted.

But it was the non -availability of Moolman and Emefiele that really angered the members of the Mr. Saheed Akinade Fijabi-led committee the most, notwithstanding the fact that they sent their subordinates to stand in for them.

The lawmakers were particularly piqued that the MTN chief avoided the investigative hearing under the pretext that matters relating to the out of court settlement require “sensitivity and confidentiality on all sides.”

Angered by the development, the lawmakers walked out an official of MTN, Mr. Austin Iyasere who was at the investigative hearing on behalf of his boss.

In a correspondence dated March 11, 2916, entitled “Re: Amicable settlement negotiations with the Federal Government” signed by Moolman and Amina Oyagbola who is the Head of Human Resources /Corporate Services had excused itself from attending the investigative hearing by referring the lawmakers to liaise with the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), offices of the Ministers of Communication and Justice as well as the CBN for relevant information on the issue.

But lawmakers disagreed, with Ossai Nicholas Ossai (Ndokwa East, West/Ukwuani: PDP: Delta) describing the correspondence as an affront to Sections 88, 89 of the Constitution which empowers the national assembly to procure evidence, examine all persons whose evidence may be useful to an investigative hearing.

Agbonayinman Johnson Ehiozwa (Egor Ikpoba/Okha: PDP: Edo) said the absence of the MTN chief was the biggest insult to the National Assembly.”It is so insulting that they are now dictating things to us. This is simply a mockery of the institution of the national assembly. I think that MTN is treading on a tiger’s back.”

The lawmakers, however, commended the Deputy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Dambatta and officials of the Ministry of Communication who appeared before the committee.

Last week, Dambatta had made a startling revelation that he was not in the know of how the N1. 4 trillion fine slammed on MTN was cut down to N300 billion by the aforementioned top government functionaries.

It will be recalled that the NCC suspended services to MTN for a failure to meet phone service quality standards.

According to an NCC document in October last year, which catalogued MTN’s numerous infractions, the regulator had stated that it decided to wield the big stick to force MTN into line.

“In the NCC quarterly compliance enforcement report for Q2 2015, out of the six sanctions imposed on operators for various acts on non-compliance, MTN was involved and sanctioned for four separate infractions,” the NCC document stated.

“As it stands today, MTN’s persistent violations have forced the NCC to impose the unprecedented sanction of suspending all regulatory services to MTN following its accumulation of over 28 separate and proven infractions,” it added.

It was gathered that MTN had offered to pay about N296 billion ($1.5 billion), made up of cash, bond purchases and access to its network.

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