Senate spits fire, flays NTA-Startimes’ ‘unfruitful’ partnership of 12 years

By John Akubo, Abuja

The Senate, yesterday, came down hard on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) for entering into a business partnership that “has yielded no revenue for Nigeria since 2008.”

The upper legislative chamber’s position was informed by revelation that the agreement with the Chinese media firm, Beijing Star Group, popularly known as NTA-Star TV Network, had not generated profit but losses since it came into effect 12 years ago.

It wondered why the situation subsisted amid the Federal Government’s N10 billion funding of the parastatal.

Vexed by the development, the Red Chamber has vowed to investigate the deal and past directors- general of the broadcast outfit.

The information came to the fore at the ongoing stakeholder’ interactive session on the 2021-223 Medium Term Expenditure Framework And Financial Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) being organised by the Senate Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning.

The panel, had last week, uncovered an alleged multi-billion naira fraud in the joint venture, when it noticed that the deal was not captured in the documents submitted by NTA’s Director-General Yakubu Mohammed.

The observation prompted the decision for the chief executive to return yesterday with relevant papers containing financials and liabilities of the venture.

But curiously, Mohammed returned with nothing, pleading instead for more time.

At this point, Senator Gabriel Suswam interjected, asking the DG to tender whatever he had for a decision on those he could not provide.

On further enquiries, Mohammed stated that the partnership had not benefited the country in the over a decade that it was struck.

“As a matter of fact, when I came on board in 2016, that was one of the first questions I asked. I wanted to know what accrued to NTA from the joint venture, and I was told that it had not declared any revenue. They have been declaring losses every year,” he submitted.

Managing Director of NTA TV Enterprises, Maxwell Loko, said he was not informed to come with documents relating to the deal.

Responding, a furious committee chair, Senator Adeola Olamilekan, stated: “It shows the NTA is here to confuse us. We will give you tomorrow (today) to come again with the relevant documents – agreement Nigeria or NTA signed with Startimes and the management account. Bring them here tomorrow (today) by 11 o’clock.”

In his contribution, Senator Ayo Patrick Akinyerule accused the television station of hiding something, hence its retention of the “bad business.”

Also speaking, Senator Danladi Sankara noted: “Star times is just running business in Nigeria illegally.”

He added: “Startimes is 11 years, and up till now, they are not registered with NBC.

“It means they are relying on NTA, using its licence. This is improper.”

-Guardian

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