Of MTN /NCC Debacle And The Of N50 Billion Fine Payment – Who Gets The Spoils ?

On Wednesday February 24th, Nigerians and a host of international observers received news of a turning point in the protracted regulatory debacle between leading telecommunications company, MTN Nigeria and the NCC. That day, the telecommunications giant announced that it was dropping its legal challenge and making a “good faith” payment of N50 billion to enable the two sides reach an amicable solution on the matter.

While the Federal Government promptly acknowledged receipt of the good faith payment and have received praised for it, many observers have expressed disbelief at the several actions and developments trailing the acknowledgement. First, the NCC has distanced itself from the payment claiming it was not aware since the payment was not made directly to it but to the FG. Another development, which is the most recent, is the Senate summons of the Honourable Minister of Communication Technology, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, among others to explain their roles on the reported payment.

These developments and many others indicate clearly that all is certainly not well between the organs and institutions of Government involved in this historical regulatory sanction. But why should this be the case? Especially since these parties had consistently spoken in one accord hitherto the payment of the Fine . It seems that so suddenly the gist on the lips of observers has changed from “why MTN should compulsorily pay?” the fine to “Whom should  MTN have made its good faith payment to?”.  Amazing ! I hear you say

In the light of this, however, there are a few begging questions which we all must ask without adopting the lenses of bias, Now that  payment has been made, why is there so much uproar about where it has been deposited?, has the place of deposit suddenly become the issue or whether the money will benefit the government ? Why should there even be a debate on where the money was paid if it ultimately belongs to Federal Government and Nigerians- by extension.

That the NCC is distancing itself from the payment of N50 Billion Naira to the Federal Government puts a joke on the supposed oneness between the NCC as a parastatal of government and the Federal Government itself. The truth is that, majority of us remembered how we came up against MTN when the fine was administered and calling for either their heads or the payment.

Now that a payment has been made with obvious  intention for  amicable settlement, stakeholders and observers are expectant that this  will finally lead to the end of the imbroglio. This is certainly not a time to play the drama of the tax collector and the sinner.  While the sinner makes frantic efforts to atone for errors, the tax collector constantly serves to create situations to make the former irredeemable.

The statement of the senate committee in its oversight function has further expanded the face of the trailing development sequel to the payment in its oversight function “The Committee wishes therefore to state clearly that going by the records of NCC whose constitutional mandate it is to superintend the mobile network operations in the country, and also in the prevailing circumstance, reserves the sole right on behalf of the Federal Government, to receive payment of any sort; MTN has unfortunately not in any way complied or shown any commitment whatsoever in this regard”.

“For the avoidance of doubt and in the course of the oversight function of the Committee specifically in relation to the sanction, NCC could not offer any proof of receiving money from MTN”.

The statement of the senate paints a picture of so much distrust. There is a need for caution for all right reason; already the imposition of the colossal 1.04 trillion has been described as an epic anomaly  by some international observers. We should be careful not to create another joke by building a commotion out of the specifics of who received the money or if indeed the money is with the Federal Government or any of its functional arms.

So who gets the spoils? In the medieval period spoils mattered equally to the rank and file soldier, to the magnate and to the crown,However conscious efforts are made to put the country first while craving for the booty. Yet the MTN Debacle is no warfare and even more should the NCC and all other Organs and Institutions of Government realise that the country should be put first in the prevailing circumstances and this can only be achieved through deliberate effort and open mindedness.

In the words of MTN Nigeria CEO, Ferdi Moolman, who said about the payment and the withdrawal of the suit “This is a most encouraging development. It demonstrates a willingness and sincerity by both parties to work together towards a positive outcome.” This sort of nobility is expected from all quarters especially as observers await the outcome of the senate summon. Ultimately this is a time towards an amicable solution and all progress inclined persons and institutions should do more to see this work and not thwart the solution .

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