Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has explained the role of his office in the controversial payment of N50 billion by MTN Nigeria to the Federal Government.
The telecommunications giant had made the down payment last week as a sign of “good faith” towards the settlement of the N780 billion fine imposed on it by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.
The telecoms regulatory agency had imposed the fine on MTN in October last year for its failure to deactivate 5.1 million unregistered Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards as directed by the authorities, thereby contravening the provisions of the regulation on SIM card registration.
The minister, who made the clarification in an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES in Abuja on Monday, said contrary to any misgivings, his office did not take any illegal decision.
“The matter is what the office of Attorney-General, as the chief law officer of the federation, is constitutionally vested with the powers to do, as the matter is pending in court”, Mr. Malami said.
“We have not even gotten to the point of negotiation, talk less of entertaining any request for consideration or not.
It’s too early in the day for anyone to raise concerns that it is not carried along, because there isn’t any engagement with anyone, as the point of that engagement is still being considered”.
The minister, who made the clarification in response to separate claims by the NCC and Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu that they were not involved in the negotiation that led to the N50 billion down payment by MTN Nigeria, stressed that there was no cause for concern about any agency being left behind in the discussions with the telecoms firm, as no concrete terms had been negotiated or agreed upon.
According to Malami, “The position of things is that MTN, through their foreign solicitors, made specific overtures to the office of Attorney General of the Federation seeking audience to discuss things that bordered on the pending case in court.
“The reaction of the office of Attorney-General was that the Federal Government was not open for any negotiation, not even an audience, until certain good faith gestures were demonstrated.
“That is how the N50 billion ‘good faith’ payment came about, and the terms of audience in court in respect of the discontinuance or withdrawal of the pending case in court”, he explained. “These were terms they agreed upon, and if they do so, then the possibility of an audience would be granted”.
Mr. Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said eventually when MTN agreed to discontinue with its case in court and made the “good faith” payment in return for an audience, it was made clear that it was not in any way intended to create any obligation on the part of NCC, Federal Government or the office of Attorney General concerning the fine.
“The N50 billion payment was just a demonstration of good faith if they (MTN) wanted to engage in a discussion with government. Despite the withdrawal of the case in court, it was still agreed that there was no formal audience until they commit whatever request they had into writing for consideration”, the Attorney-General noted.
He said MTN had since made a formal presentation by writing conveying what they wanted to discuss when the audience would eventually be granted, pointing out that the formal request was without an opportunity for MTN to discuss or negotiate anything.
“The request in writing has been circulated to all stakeholders, namely NCC, ministries of Communications and Finance. Their comments and technical inputs would be required to determine whether there is any room for further negotiation or deliberation on those terms. Even if they were to be given audience, what should they expect”, the minister said.
On whether the N50 billion would be considered as part of the fine to be paid by MTN, Mr. Malami said it was “only equitable or logical, whether there is agreement or not, for the N50 billion to be factored into whatever final payment is made as penalty at the end of negotiation”.
Unknown Gunmen Kill Ondo Traditional Ruler, Olufon Of Ifon
Oba Adegoke Adeusi, the Olufon of Ifon under Ose Local Government Area Ondo State, has been murdered by unknown gunmen suspected to be bandits.
Oba Adeusi was reportedly killed on Thursday evening at a spot around the Elegbeka axis of the town.
According to reports, the monarch was initially kidnapped before he was eventually killed.
The monarch reportedly died at the Federal Medical Centre in Owo, as a result of gunshots he sustained during the attack.
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Tee Leo-Ikoro, confirmed the incident to Channels Television.
Describing the event as an unfortunate one, the Police spokesman in the state also revealed that two people in the monarch’s convoy were kidnapped.
No Pardon For Rapists, Says Sanwo-Olu
Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu has expressed that there is no pardon for people indicted in reported cases of rape and gender-based violence.
The governor made this remark on Thursday when he received a 54-page compendium on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence compiled by the Stakeholders’ Committee set up by this wife, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu.
The Committee was set up to give recommendations on how the fight against sexual and gender-based violence can be won.
Speaking at the occasion, Sanwo-Olu, restated his commitment to protecting the vulnerable demographics and getting justice for victims violated.
The governor said, “I am delighted by the work done by the Stakeholders’ Committee to bring attention to the problems facing voiceless adults and children in our society. Through your efforts, vulnerable people are building the courage to speak out on offences of sexual violence and heal their wounds.
“We will bring people, who have been perpetrating these crimes, knowingly or unknowingly, to book. We will ensure they never walk freely without the full wrath of the law brought upon them. It is part of our responsibility to ensure that the vulnerable members of our society have a voice and have access to where they can get justice when their rights are violated.”
Vendor’s Widow Disowns Family Over N500m Lawsuit Against Gbajabiamila
Josephine Okereke, wife of the Abuja-based vendor killed by a security aide of Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the house of representatives, has rejected the family’s demand of N500 million compensation.
Okereke while speaking to newsmen on Thursday stated that what she wants is justice for her late husband, and not the compensation being sought by his family.
Recall that some days ago, Ifeanyi, her husband, was shot by Abdullahi Hassan, a Department of State Services (DSS) operative attached to the speaker.
Days after the Speaker promised to ensure justice, the family of the slain vendor wrote the speaker, demanding a N500 million compensation.
Okereke, however, told journalists in Abuja that she was not privy to the N500 million compensation requested by the family.
“I was in my house when within 10 minutes my father-in-law came from Abia, he went out along with his other son and the next day I heard that my husband’s people are demanding N500 million as compensation,” she said.
“I was shocked and asked how will they be doing that and how will the speaker help the children again with such demand. All I want now is that the person that killed my husband to face justice.”
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