House of Representatives Committee on Communications yesterday threatened to issue a warrant of arrest on the Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of MTN Nigeria, Ferdinand Moolman, if he fails to honour its summon.
The committee, which was furious at the contemptuous manner Moolman treated its earlier invitation to yesterday’s investigative hearing, also walked out his representative and Manager, Government Affairs, Austine Iyasere.
Representative of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor, Godwin Emefiele, who also failed to appear before the committee was also asked to leave. Trouble started at the resumed hearing on the fine imposed on MTN by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, yesterday, when the committee noticed that the key people invited had refused to attend but sent their subordinates, which the lawmakers considered very inconsequential to the process.
A member, Ossai Nicholas Ossai, observed that the committee was enjoying constitutional provisions of Section 88 and 89, empowering the parliament to invite and investigate anybody. He pointed out that it was embarrassing and an insult on the parliament, that Moolman and Emefiele treated the invitation to the hearing with flagrant disrespect.
The members were even more infuriated by a letter sent to the committee by Moolman, ordering it to liaise with some government agencies over the matter, claiming that MTN was seeking amicable settlement and that it could not afford to toy with the sensitive and confidential nature of the case at this time. The letter tendered by Chairman of the Committee, Saheed Akinade-Fijabi, was co-signed by Moolman and Human Resources/Corporate Services Executive, Amina Oyagbola, on March 11, 2016, titled, “Re: Amicable settlement negotiations with the Federal Government.”
in the letter said: “We wish to refer you to the appropriate government agencies, specifically the Nigerian Communications Commission, Offices of the Honourable Ministers of Communication and Justice, as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria, which agencies are in a position to furnish your committee with relevant information on this issue.
“As you know, MTN is pursuing amicable settlement, negotiation with the Federal Government. We believe you will understand that the process of this kind, require sensitive and confidentiality on all sides. Accordingly, we are unable to make any further comments about the process at this stage.
“We trust that we can call upon your solid judgement at all times and that this process be allowed to continue in order for the parties to be given the opportunity to reach a settlement as envisaged by the court when it adjourned the matter for that purpose on 22nd January, 2016.”
Irked by the content of the letter, members took turn to tongue-lash Moolman and MTN as biting more than they could chew by practically insulting Nigeria, its people, parliament and government. The committee however adjourned hearing on the matter till further notice, to enable it serve Moolman and Emefiele another summon. The lawmakers commended the patience of the NCC and its leadership for always honouring all sittings.
NCC had issued a fine of N1.04 trillion ($5.2 billion) against MTN Nigeria, the largest mobile network operator in the country for failing to disconnect subscribers with unregistered and incomplete subscriber identification modules (SIM) cards within the stipulated time. The fine which is the largest in the history of telecom infringements may redefine the relationships between telecommunications operators and the regulator