$5.2b fine: MTN may get staggered payment option

Prof. Umar Danbatta

Prof. Umar Danbatta

THE Federal Government is expected to make its position known today on the $5.2 billion fine slammed on Africa’s largest telecommunications firm, MTN for contravening regulatory orders in Nigeria just as it is also likely that the troubled MTN Nigeria may eventually opt for staggered payment options after failing to get the fine cancelled by the Nigerian authorities.

This was part of the fall out of the meeting held in Abuja on Friday between the Nigerian authorities and the South African delegation from MTN, The Guardian has learnt.

Today, November 16 is the deadline handed MTN Nigeria to pay the fine for its failure, after several warnings from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), 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 led to the commission slamming a N1.04 trillion ($5.2 billion) fine on the telecommunications firm for the defective SIMs at the cost of N200, 000 per each.

The regulator claimed that the telecommunications firm was found having a database allegedly being used by kidnappers, insurgents; miscreants, armed robbers and to commit crimes in the country.

A 12-page regulation published in the Federal Government of Nigeria Official Gazette No 101, Volume 98, tagged: The Nigerian Communications Commission (Registration of Telephone Subscribers) Regulation, Section 20 (1) gave more impetus to the MTN sanction, stating: “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.”

An NCC source, who spoke to The Guardian yesterday, said as at Friday, the Account Department did not confirm receiving any payment alert.
“I mean they didn’t receive any money from MTN.”

The source, however, said there was a meeting in Abuja on Friday, which lasted till very late in the evening and had in attendance top MTN Group and Nigerian very senior officials, the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu and the acting Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta and was presided over by the Chief of Staff to the President, Alhaji Abba Kyari.

The NCC source disclosed that there won’t be cancellation of the fine, “but the telecommunications firm pleaded passionately for staggered payment after admitting to have erred in every material particular.”
Reuters had quoted Shittu as saying: “Nobody wants MTN to die. Nobody wants MTN to shut down.”

However, a senior MTN official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said there is nothing on ground for now, “but it appears that in principle, the date may have been extended. There is serious discussion between MTN and the Nigerian authority. There is still no obligation to pay tomorrow (today). It is the Group that is handling the matter now.”

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