The Senate says it is probing the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, and StarTimes Joint Venture Agreement over the non-profitability of the venture which had been since 2008.
The Chairman, Senate Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning, Solomon Adeola, said this on Tuesday in Abuja, during an interactive session with some revenue-generating agencies of government.
The upper chamber had, on Monday, queried the management of NTA, over 12 years of non-profitable ventures with StarTimes.
The Senate asked that the management should appear before the committee along with the Managing Director, NTA TV Enterprises, Maxwell Loko.
The joint venture agreement was that whatever accrued at the end of every financial year, 70 per cent, goes to StarTimes and 30 per cent to Nigeria.
Hon. Adeola queried why some of the accounts of StarTimes were in dollars and naira.
“If this business is truly owned and it is owned in Nigeria as you profess, this account should only be in naira value.
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“Why you have structured it to be in dollars and naira, is for easy movement of dollars outside the country.
“In 2019, the total revenue for subscription is 36.1 million dollars and in naira terms, it is over N11 billion.
“On this note, we are going to set up a special investigative panel to look into this record before us, audited account from the few lines l am able to open and look into, there is a lot of issues,” he said
The chairman further called for the stepping aside of the Managing Director, NTA TV Enterprises, chief executive officer of StarTimes and the director of tax, for an independent investigation.
Also speaking, the Vice-Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Olubunmi Adetumbi, called for a forensic audit of the process.
He said, “an independent forensic audit of this exercise is needed so that we can open up where the issues are, if NTA needs to renegotiate its agreement, so be it.”
A member of the committee, Yusuf Yusuf (APC-Taraba) said, “Whatever way we look at it, this thing is actually a messy situation.
“NTA signed an agreement with these people, which is a venture to form Star TV and then to be overlooked by TV enterprises.
However, if you look at the shareholding, the 30 per cent is not TV enterprises.
“NTA has 30 per cent and not TV enterprises. Whatever way you look at it, this thing is muddled up.
“That is why this venture could not generate income for the country.”
Responding, Loko, the managing director, NTA TV Enterprises said “I don’t work for them, I don’t manage the company.
“We have a chief executive officer, I do not manage StarTimes, that is the truth. I do not manage StarTimes, I do not work for them.
“It will interest the committee to know that it was indeed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) that introduced StarTimes communication of China to NTA.”
Loko explained that NBC granted the company licence from August 2011 to 2016 in the first instance.
“We were expected to have paid N500 million as licence fee,” he said.