November 18, 2017

Nigeria’s attorney general clarifies roles he played in MTN fine quagmire

Paul AdepojuApr 11, 20165min
Nigeria’s Attorney General and Justice Minister Abubakar Malami (SAN) has clarified the roles he played in the MTN fine saga. In a letter he sent to Senator Gilbert Nnaji, chairman, Senate Committee on Communications and signed by Salihu Isah, his media aide, the minister denied any underhand dealings, insisting that his intervention in the case, which led to the company’s payment of the amount, was a product of a transparent process.
“For the benefit of those in doubt, it is so far, so good for the role my principal has played. I wish to state vividly that, when Mr. Eric Holder, the counsel to the MTN led a team to interface with my principal as the Chief Law Officer of the nation, he (Malami) insisted that MTN must show some commitment by ensuring a down payment of N50 billion.

 

“The Federal Government’s insistence was that no audience could be granted to the telecom Company or anyone acting on its behalf while the case is still pending in court and in the absence of demonstration of good faith by MTN.

“To this request, MTN offered to comply, and indeed complied by withdrawing the case unconditionally and to make an agreed payment of N50 billion ($250 million), an offer the FGN accepted only to grant audience to it and its counsel in relations to the settlement discussions (and without prejudice and in good faith).

“The payment was made on February 24th, into a Federal Government Recoveries Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria. The Company also filed an application to withdraw its pending suit in an attempt to fulfil the second condition for audience with the FGN on the matter.

“This was also confirmed by the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice before it agreed to grant audience to MTN or its Counsel.

“And having fulfilled the two conditions as demanded by the Federal Government through the AGF, the MTN through its counsel Eric Holder and his Covington legal team thereby sought audience with the AGF, who yet denied going into any negotiations, but demanded a proposal of the terms meant to be discussed in writing.

“Mr. Eric Holder obliged those terms and the AGF, who quickly despatched a mail through the normal official channel to the Minister of Communications and the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC inviting for their input before fixing any meeting.

“While still awaiting the responses of both, no meeting or discussion or negotiation has been held on the issue ever since. What the AGF did afterwards was to ask the MTN legal team to formally present its proposals on the matter so that technical input could be sought from all stakeholders before the FGN could grant them any audience.

“This proposal has now been circulated among the stakeholders for their technical contributions and that is where we were on the issue when the invitation of the Senate came in at a time when the AGF was embarking on a trip to attend an anti-corruption summit in the United Kingdom that he was earlier billed to attend before the invitation came handy.

“It is imperative to state at this juncture that neither an audience nor commitment was made by the AGF to MTN, who was then waiting for the technical inputs and comments of the ministries of Communications and Finance as well as the NCC with a view to harmonizing the inputs, and coordinate inter-ministerial meeting for a common position, before considering an audience meeting or negotiation with MTN, all of which were aborted by the pre-emptive conclusion hastily reached by your Committee,” the AGF said.

Paul Adepoju

Paul ADEPOJU is a Nigerian freelance journalist, managing editor, blogger and published writer (3 books already). He has vast experience working with various media organizations in Africa, Asia, Europe and America. He covers stories on various genres and for various audiences. He is the managing editor of HealthNewsNG.com which is Africa’s leading health news website; he also manages IBPulse.com, a city blog that focuses on happenings in his home town of Ibadan, southwest Nigeria. He has won several awards including Nigeria’s Vanguard Newspaper’s Young Nigerian Making The Difference award; a certificate of recognition from UNESCO and Goi Peace Institute in Japan; a finalist at the International Press Institute’s Young Nigerian Journalist of the Year award; and was the only African finalist in the NetImpact/FedEx Global Access Essay Competition.



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