Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, yesterday said the N1.4 trillion fine issued on Mobile Telecommunications Network (MTN) by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) should not be seen as a fine that is binding on the telecom company.
The House of Representative Ad Hoc Committee on the MTN’s fine led by Hon. Saheed Akinade-Fijabi quizzed the minister over his role in the out-of-court settlement with MTN.
The minister said that such monies could only be termed as fines only if a law court in the land pronounce it so.
Malami argued that his decision to wade into the issue surrounding the out-of-court settlement was in line with the provisions of Sections 86 and 87 of the NCC Act which permits him as a key operative of the Executive arm to exercise such oversight function.
The Attorney-General of the Federation said the language of the NCC Act on violation should not be misconstrued to be committal of an offence, he said:
“What has been imposed by the NCC is not a fine in the strict sense, it was a penalty and substantially certain part of the NCC Act was categorical on that.
So, a penalty is different from a fine because a fine can only be imposed by a court of law after due determination of a penal case when an offence of guilt is eventually entered. So, what has been happening about the imposition of the NCC is an imposition of penalty and not a fine.
“The determination of the commission of an offence or otherwise of an offence is the discretion of a court of law.
In the absence of such pronouncement of a court of law regardless of the issue at stake, one cannot jump to conclusions that an offence has been committed.