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Govt denies out-of-court settlement plan with MTN over fine

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NCC• Minister unveils communications sector roadmap
• Reps berate Shittu over suspension of NITDA boss

THE Federal Government yesterday said it had not resolved to settle out of court with MTN Nigeria over the $5.2 billion fine the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) imposed on the company last year.

Answering question from journalists yesterday in Abuja, Minister of Communications Technology, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, said that there could be no out-of-court settlement except MTN withdraws the case from the court.

He said: “The case is in court, it was MTN that dragged the Federal Government to court. I am not aware of any out-of-court settlement, as issues like this are very sensitive. As far as we are concerned, there can be no out-of-court settlement except they withdraw the case from the court so that government will not be put under any pressure whatsoever. If the case is out-of-court, the President will take a decision but for now, I am not aware of any out-of-court settlement.”

In another development, members of the House of Representatives joint committees on Information Communications Technology (ICT) and Telecommunications yesterday upbraided the Shittu over his non-response to the suspension of the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mr. Peter Jack.

The House of Representatives members with Speaker, Yakubu Dogara presiding had while adopting a motion last week, mandated the joint committee to look into the issue and determine whether the suspension of the NITDA chief was in tandem with due process.

When the minister appeared before members of the committee yesterday to throw light on the allegations of misconduct levelled against the NITDA chief, the lawmakers were not impressed with the manner he handled the issue.

The minister, who unveiled the Communications sector roadmap for 2016-2019 in Abuja, said that given the absence of fiscal buffers in amidst low oil prices and rising unemployment, the Federal Government is poised to use ICT which already employs more Nigerians than the oil and gas sector to drive economic growth.

He averred that at 11.93 per cent contribution to the GDP, ICT is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Nigerian economy and the second largest ICT market in Africa.

According to him, about $287 million worth of revenue is lost yearly on software piracy in Nigeria.The minister pointed out that creating a knowledge-based economy has been the key element in the ICT sector policy-making in the last seven years, as successive governments have presided over varying degrees of growth in the sector.

According to him, the major issue now is how to nurture the explosive growth recorded in the sector to ensure it reaches every part of Nigeria.

The minister, who was accompanied by officials of the ministry, craved the indulgence of the lawmakers on the basis that he was not prepared to take questions from them on the issue of suspension of the NITDA chief, saying he had a pressing assignment of national importance relating to a cyber crime and investment summit to attend in Abuja.

The minister particularly claimed that he was ignorant of the issue at stake just as he rendered apologies to the lawmakers who wondered why he had to give excuses even when he was duly notified of the need to appear before them to explain his own side of the story over the suspension of the NITDA chief.

Members of the joint committee took turn to cast aspersions at the minister after the Chairman of the committee, Mohammed Onawo, sought their views on the issue.

Onawo, who reminded the minister that the committee was mandated by the House to look into the perceived injustice done to the suspended DG of NITDA, recalled that the minister was duly notified of the need to appear and clear the air on the issue.

Tajudeen Yusuf (Kabba: PDP: Kogi) expressed displeasure with the minister’s position saying: “For him to say that he doesn’t know why he is here is an insult to the National Assembly. Now, the minister knows why he is here, the Chairman may give him another opportunity to express himself. I will not be part of anything that will undermine the National Assembly.”

Linus Okorie, who stressed the need for both the Executive and the Legislature to collaborate to ensure good governance, said the minister’s act clearly smacks of disregard for the National Assembly.

The minister, who was a member of the House of Representatives from 1979-1983, however, apologised and retracted his statement saying: “I want you to forgive me if there is a misconception.”


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