NCC’s hammer on MTN


NCC’s hammer on MTN


THE Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) recently imposed a hefty fine of $5.2 billion (N1.04 trillion) on mobile telephone service provider, the MTN, for reportedly failing to deactivate 5.2 million unregistered Subscriber Identification Module cards, or SIM cards, as demanded by the industry regulator. The fine is undoubtedly the biggest penalty ever imposed on any mobile telecoms service provider in the country.
The sum of $5.2 billion fine was arrived at by multiplying N200,000 for each card with the 5.2 million SIM cards that MTN failed to
disconnect as stipulated in the NCC Registration of Telephone Subscrib­ers Regulation, 2011 as published in the Federal Government of Nigeria Official Gazette No 101 Vol.98.
Section 20(1) of the regulation states that “any licensee who activates or fails to deactivate a subscription medium in violation of any provision of these regu­lations is liable to a penalty of N200,000 for each unregistered but activated sub­scription medium.”
Expectedly, the fine on MTN has con­tinued to generate reactions both within and outside the country. It has already resulted in the resignation of the Chief Executive Officer of MTN Group Lim­ited, Mr. Sifiso Dabengwa, and pressure is mounting on the CEO of MTN Nigeria to throw in the towel in the aftermath of the fine which has also led to a sharp de­preciation in the price of the company’s share in the Johannesburg Stock Ex­change (JSE).
Although MTN is not contesting the charge of violating the laws and regula­tions of NCC in respect of deactivating unregistered SIM users, the telecoms company is pleading for a significant reduction in the fine as this would have serious implication for the profitability of not only MTN Nigeria but the par­ent company as a whole. Although MTN Group operates in 18 countries across Africa, available statistics show that it makes almost 50 percent of its profit from Nigeria.
On the surface, MTN appears “guilty as charged,” being fully aware of the far-reaching consequences of running foul of the laws provided in the NCC rules and the security implications of its neg­ligence to deactivate the unregistered SIM cards, at a time that Nigeria is fac­ing enormous security challenges.
Also, the newly sworn-in Minister of Communication, Chief Adebayo Shittu, has reportedly insisted that the telecoms company should pay the N1.04 trillion fine slammed on it.
On its part, NCC had defended its de­cision, and explained that before it im­posed the fine on MTN, it convened a series of meetings with all the telecoms operators in the country and warned them to deactivate all unregistered lines in view of the insecurity facing the coun­try.
The NCC also said that in August this year, it gave the telecoms operators a deadline of one week to disconnect all improperly registered SIM cards. De­spite this order, the MTN was the only telecoms operator that failed to comply with the directive, while others complied substantially.
However, as the November 16 dead­line given to MTN to pay the fine or face fresh penalties expires today, we urge for a speedy resolution of the matter in the overall interest of the concerned parties.
While we maintain that NCC should enforce its rules and regulations in the telecom industry without creating a bad precedent that could lead to further breaches of its laws, it makes sense to suggest that both parties should enter into high level negotiations to resolve the matter amicably and thereby close the unpleasant chapter.
Our position is anchored on the fact that focusing entirely on the payment of the fine will neither help the matter nor address the enormity of the offence committed by MTN. While it is desirable that NCC must enforce its own rules, it is also important to point out that one of the ways to resolve the impasse is to spread the payment of the fine over an acceptable period of time.
It is hoped that in the end, the MTN must have learnt a useful lesson on this issue. No doubt, the lesson learnt from this matter will invariably guide it to avoid such pitfalls in future.
On the alternative, the telecoms regu­lator can also temper justice with mer­cy. We say this considering the fact that MTN has done so much that impacted on the lives of Nigerians through its corpo­rate social responsibility programmes.
All the same, the company should be reminded that as a corporate entity. it must always comply with extant regu­latory rules and laws of the country in which it operates.


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