Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, has refuted claims by his communications counterpart, Adebayo Shittu, that his ministry did not participate in any negotiation with MTN which led to the payment of N50 billion.
This is following the controversy surrounding the part payment of N50 billion purportedly paid into government accounts by MTN in view of the N1.04 trillion fine slammed on it by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for violating SIM subscription and registration rules.
Malami told the Hon. Saheed Akinade Fijabi-led House of Representatives Committee on Communications that contrary to the claim by the minister, his office sent a formal letter to the ministry as well as the other agencies relevant to the issue but only got a response from the NCC which made submission.
Justifying his action on the fine saga, Malami quoted section 150 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.
“As we speak, no negotiation has been concluded over MTN’s matter.
“All matters were subjected to the withdrawal of the case from court by MTN, and showing good faith 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.
“Even at that, there was no leave granted to it on the basis of the payment. All relevant MDAs were carried along regarding the process toward reaching amicable settlement. But only the NCC responded to the communication on the need to determine whether MTN should be engaged in negotiation or not as sent to both the NCC and the ministry”, he submitted.
The Minister of Communications, 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 and that the only thing he knows about the issue was as highlighted in the letter sent to him from the minister of justice which he had submitted to the committee previously and couldn’t make any further addition.
“We from the Ministry of Communication are happy to be here again in answering your call. During the last sitting according to the correspondents 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’s 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 (CBN).
“As we monitored the system being the custodian of the Treasury, we discovered a lodgement of N50 billion and found out that it was from MTN. And we enquired from the CBN and it was confirmed that yes, the money came from MTN”, he revealed.