The Senate has uncovered staggering revelations of how officials of the NTA allegedly connived with Joint Venture Partners, StarTimes to ferry about N200 billion profits out of Nigeria since 2008.
Relying on the audited report of the Auditor-General of the Federation, the Senate through its Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning revealed that the NTA/Startimes JV made a whopping $36.1 million (about N11 billion) in 2018; contrary to earlier claims by NTA that the business had yielded no profit in almost 12 years.
The Senate accused NTA/StarTimes of cooking its financial records to show that it spent a total of N19 billion; leaving a shortfall of N8 billion in 2018 to justify earlier claims that the business had yielded nothing.
According to the Chairman of the Senate Committee, Solomon Olamilekan the reason NTA officials kept the account to the JV in Dollar form was for them to easily ship the profits outside of Nigeria in connivance with some Nigerian officials.
Olamilekan consequently called for a Special Investigation into the record books of NTA/StarTimes Joint Venture asking the Management to return roughly N200billion generated since 2008.
Before then, the Senate asked that the Managing Director of NTA TV Enterprises, Maxwell Loko and two other Senior Management Staff of the NTA business subsidiary to immediately step aside to give room for unbiased investigation.
This was as Co-Chairman of the Senate Committee, Olubunmi Adetunbi called for an independent forensic audit of all the transactions of NTA/StarTimes since 2010.
Frantic efforts by the MD of NTA TV Enterprises to provide explanations regarding transaction with StarTime seemed to land him and his agency in more trouble in the controversial JV deal.
For instance, the N720 million the Managing Director said NTA borrowed from StarTime to pay for licensing fees from 2011-2021 to the National Broadcast Commission (NBac) did not reflect anywhere in the financial records of NTA.
The story was same for the Director-General of NTA; Yakubu Mohammed as he came under even more intense fire along with his Finance Director over their inability to provide explanations for unrealistic figures contained in NTA budget projection for 2021.
NTA’s total subventions from the Federal Government stands at about N7 billion yearly against a revenue generation capacity of N3.5 billion.
Irked by NTA’s final submission, the Senate asked that NTA should become fully commercialized and excused completely from the federal budget to source for its own funds.
Surprisingly, the NTA Director General welcomed the arrangement that will make NTA more profit oriented but on the condition that the mandate of NTA is also changed.
He said that NTA with its current mandate as a public owned media outfit cannot be fully commercialized; proposing a quasi-public status for NTA.