Why MTN gets lifeline on N1.04tr fine
FACTS emerged yesterday why the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) decided to give MTN Nigeria a brief extension on the payment of the fine it slammed on the telecommunications firm for contravening regulatory orders.
The NCC had given MTN Nigeria up till Monday, November 16 to pay the $5.2 billion (N1.04 trillion) fine, which was a fallout of the failure of the telecommunications firm, after several warnings from the regulator to disconnect about 5.1 million subscribers found to have pre-registered Subscribers Identification Module (SIMs) cards and incomplete registration details on the network. This prompted the commission to slam the fine on the firm for the defective SIMs at the cost of N200, 000 each.
NCC may have taking into consideration a letter written to it by MTN, where it tendered an ‘unserved apology’ to the commission and the Federal government of Nigeria.
A copy of the letter, which The Guardian obtained exclusively, which was addressed to the Acting Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta and dated November 2, 2015, was signed by both the Chairman of MTN Nigeria and the Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Pascal Dozie and Michael Ikpoki respectively.
The letter was titled: “RE: Failure To Deactivate All Incomplete and Improperly Registered SIM Cards—Notice of Sanction”, was in reference to NCC’s letter dated October 2015 sent to MTN.
In the letter, the commission pledged unalloyed commitment to the national interest objectives of the SIM registration exercise.
The letter read in part: “On behalf of the Board and Management of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, we hereby tender our unreserved apologies to the Nigerian Communications Commission and the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the unfortunate circumstances which led to the issuing of the letter of October 5, 2015.
As the correspondence would show, MTN was already in the process of complying with the directive of the NCC. We unservedly admit that although we had commenced the process of complying with the directive, this compliance unfortunately took longer than expected due to the enormity and complexity of the tasks and the time within which to achieve them. Please be assured that necessary processes are now in place to enable us respond quicker to avoid a reoccurrence of recent events, which led to the issuing of the letter of October 5, 2015.
We assure the commission and the Federal Government of Nigeria of MTN’s unalloyed commitment and support to the national interest objectives of the exercise to implement the disconnection of invalid.improperly registered SIMs. MTN Nigeria therefore most humbly appeals to your good offices to kindly reconsider the fine. We make this appeal in good faith, with the firm assurance that MTN is fully cognizant of the strategic objectives which informed the SIM registration exercise and will at all times remain fully aligned with the federal government’s priorities in this regard. We also assure you of MTN’s commitment to ensure full compliance with the commission’s directives.”
MTN, said as a company deeply committed to the wellbeing of Nigeria and in further demonstration of “our unreserved support to the cardinal points of the government, we would welcome an opportunity to engage the FGN on how we can identify with and support a key national imperative or project.”
Meanwhile, the NCC has insisted that Nigeria stands by the fine, until an agreement is reached by both parties.
NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, Tony Ojobo, said in a statement on Monday that the regulator was looking into MTN’s plea for leniency but the fine remained because MTN has admitted to breaking the law.
“The fine remains but the appeal and other engagements with MTN may affect the payment deadline,” Ojobo said.