OrderPaperToday– The House of Representatives on Thursday threatened to move for the arrest of the managing directors of MTN, Glo and 13 other telecommunications operators over refusal to appear before the House Committee on Finance investigating non-remittances by ministries, departments and agencies into the federation account.
It also resolved to amend the Company Income Tax law awaiting President Muhammad Buhari’s assent which provides that any company or persons indicted by National Assembly that fails or refuses to pay or remit statutory revenue returns to the federal government through the appropriate quarters should have its directors criminally prosecuted for violation of tax laws, barred from further business operations in the country and the company blacklisted and delisted from the register of the Corporate Affairs Commission.
This was sequel the adoption of a motion raised under matters of urgent public importance by Hon. James Faleke.
In his lead debate, Faleke expressed dismay over the unpatriotic attitude of chief executive officers of companies like the 13 telecommunications companies which included MTN and GLO, that do not respond to summons by parliament to explain their various business activities in the country, a development that the House noted was unpalatable given the precarious economic situation Nigeria currently finds herself.
He stressed that it is amazing that some of these corporations, particularly telecom operators under the aegis of Incorporated Trustees of Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, upon the receipt of the letters of invitation, chose instead to file cases in court.
He noted that a judgment in favour of the National Assembly was delivered on the 13th of March, 2020, by Her Lordship, B.F.M. Nyako J, which reiterated that ‘the National Assembly is empowered by Sections 88 and 89 of the constitution, to invite any persons for investigative purposes’.
According to him, the telecoms operators under the aegis of Incorporated Trustees of Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria have contested the powers of the National Assembly, and have filed an appeal seeking an injunction to restrain the National Assembly from
investigating their business, operations and policies; summoning them; requesting any documents or books from them; conducting any investigative hearing or meetings against them; making oversight visits to (their) offices or premises for the purposes of investigating or demanding information.
“The injunction being sought in the appeal is nothing but an attempt to tie the hands of the National Assembly and render the National Assembly useless and incapacitated in carrying out her constitutional and legislative roles as assigned to it by the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended),” he said.
He further expressed concerns that the notice of appeal is intended to both distract and delay the conclusion of the oversight functions of the committee in respect of the various documented infractions committed by these corporations.
The lawmaker informed the House that the $30 billion tax revenue leakage is based solely on documented evidence and not a fishing expedition or an attempt to harass any law abiding entities. He also added that compliance with letters of invitation of the House will afford any persons or organisation the opportunity to challenge any false allegations.
The deputy speaker, Ahmed Wase, Mr. Oluwole Oke (PDP, Osun) and other lawmakers who contributed during the debate on the bill expressed displeasure at the conduct of these telecoms operators and MDAs, stating that their actions amount to contempt and economic sabotage.
The speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, also expressed displeasure over the attitude of the telecoms operators, who he said are not above the law in Nigeria. He, however, asked the committee to extend one more invitation to them before wielding the big stick.
The motion was unanimously adopted by the House.
Recall that the 9th Assembly has continually stated that it will ensure that all revenue leakages are plugged in its drive to fund the nation’s budget.