Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, says the fine imposed on mobile phone company, MTN Nigeria was meant to send a clear message: ensure that corporate bodies respect the laws of the land.
The nation’s top law officer was commenting amid the N1.04 trillion imposed on MTN Nigeria, owned by South Africa’s MTN Group, for non-registration of 5.2 million subscribers on its network.
The Minister, who acknowledges the mobile phone company’s input to the nation’s economy, especially through employment-creation, says the Federal Government does not intend to destabilise MTN.
The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice disclosed this at the public hearing of House Committee on Communication and Information Technology at the National Assembly on Thursday in Abuja.
While responding to questions from members of the committee, the Minister explained that the case of MTN does not bother on criminality but non-compliance with the nation’s laws and regulations.
“It is my constitutional responsibility to ensure that laws of the Federation are respected and the interest of the business communities protected”, he adds.
Penalties are negotiable in accordance with the law and public interest, he says noting that, “I’m not unmindful that Nigeria is looking for foreign investors, neither unmindful of the fact that many Nigerians are on the employment of MTN, but my major concern is to ensure that the laws of the land are respected.”
Also responding to questions from members of the Committee, the Accountant General of the Federation, Idris Ahmed said that the FG Asset Recovery Account was opened based on instruction.
He explained that MTN deposited the N50 billion penalty payment into the said account while assuring that the statement and figure had remained the same and intact.
Ahmed further explained that all recovered looted funds and that of MTN fine are domiciled in the FG Asset Recovery Account pending conclusions, when they would eventually be moved into Consolidated Accounts of the Federal Government.
In his closing remarks, Saheed Fijabi, Chairman, House Committee on Communication, says the public hearing was reconvened as a follow-up to the meeting held on Tuesday to shed more light on grey areas.
According to him, “We are in the change era and that business is not as usual. That’s why we are here to throw more light into this case.”