The Senate Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning, yesterday, asked the management of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and Startimes Pay TV joint venture to step down after failing thrice to convince it on the transparency of the deal.
Committee chairman, Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola (APC Lagos West), said a forensic audit of the account of the “non- profitable venture must be carried out in unraveling the quantum of money that had been fraudulently taken out of the country within the last 11 years, estimated to be N200 billion.”
The upper legislative house had found out that the agreement between NTA and the Chinese media firm, Beijing Star Group, in 2008 known as NTA-Star TV Network, had yielded no revenue for Nigeria since it commenced in 2008.
The panel described the management as “unpatriotic Nigerians working for Startimes, but receiving monthly salaries from NTA.”
Trouble began when the committee, interfacing with heads of agencies on revenue projections for the N12.6 trillion 2021 budget, called on them to explain one after the other, why the joint venture has not yielded profit for NTA, as lamented by its Director General, Yakubu Ibn Mohammed on Monday.
Managing Director of the joint venture, Maxwell Loko, had told the lawmakers that business was not thriving because “Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT), being operated through the venture, is capital intensive as against the satellite model.”
He had lamented that of the four million subscribers, only 20 per cent were active, making the deal not profitable for both parties.
But Senator Adeola and other members faulted his argument. In a related development, the committee queried the N10 billion expenditure on 600 employees as yearly wage by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
It, therefore, directed the chief executive to carry out a staff audit and right-size.The Director General, Lamido Yuguda, had informed the lawmakers that his organisation generated N8.358 billion in 2019, far above its N5.478 billion projection, even as it eyes a far lower target of N8.3 billion for 2021.