Senate grills NTA DG over N1.8bn indebtedness, 11yrs unprofitable venture with Startimes

The Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) was on Monday grilled by the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly over N1.8 billion indebtedness on COVID-19 adverts and the over eleven years unprofitable venture with Startimes

The Director General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Yakubu Ibn Mohammed, who appeared before the Senate’s joint committee on Finance and National Planning, didn’t find things easy with the committee, as he was under fire over unsatisfactory submissions on operational and revenue drive of the Information outfit.

Yakubu-Ibn-Mohammed – Universal Reporters
NTA DG, Yakubu Ibn Mohammed

Asked to submit details of debtors owing NTA N1.8billion, he responded that the Indebtedness was purely from COVID-19 adverts which have not been paid for, despite presentations to that effect to the appropriate authorities twice.

More problems greeted the DG, when he told the committee members that not a single dime has been realised from joint operational venture it entered into with Startimes since 2008.

The Senate Committee noted that the joint venture the television station has been running with Startimes for the past eleven years without any profit.

To this end, the DG was ordered to appear before it again on Tuesday along with the Managing Director of NTA TV Enterprises, Maxwell Loko, supervising the the joint venture with Startimes.

He said: “As an Executive Director in 2009 in NTA, not a single kobo was made from the joint venture with Startimes, the same situation I met in 2016 when I returned as DG .

“Infact, on assumption of office as DG that was the first question I asked, upon which records of non- profitability was presented by the NTA subsidiary outfit running it.

“The non- profitability status of the venture remains till today,” he said.

Reacting to this submission, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Solomon Olamilekan Adeola (APC Lagos West), asked, “Mr. DG are you telling this committee that for solid eleven years, the joint venture agreement NTA had with Startimes has not yielded any profit despite using your facilities for over one million subscribers.

“This is completely unfair to Nigeria. Something is cooking. You must come with the MD of your subsidiary unit overseeing the contractual and operational agreement.”

Also speaking on this development, a member of the committee, Senator Danladi Sankara (APC Jigawa North West), described the venture as fraudulent since Startimes did not register with the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC)

He said: “Startimes as far as the laws of the land is concerned, is running an illegal business in Nigeria and very unfortunate that such is being aided and abetted by NTA.”

On the N1.8 billion indebtedness on COVID-19 adverts, Senator Ayo Akinyelure told the DG that the National Assembly earmarked money for publicity on COVID-19 out of the N500billion appropriated as intervention fund.

“This Senate and by extension, the National Assembly provided money for publicity out of the N500billion intervention fund appropriated.

 “Therefore your submission that NTA has not been paid any money in that respect is unacceptable. You must collect whatever the said N1.8billion from the Presidential Task Force in charge of COVID-19,” he said.

Consequently, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Adeola, ordered the DG to come with documents on presentations made for payment of the N1.8billion on Tuesday.

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