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MTN may pay N780bn fine to remain in business

By Olabisi Olaleye

THERE are strong indications that dominant mobile telecom operator, MTN Nigeria, may likely pay a chunk out of the $3.9 billion (N780 billion) fine, after discussions with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) progressed.
According to sources, NCC is bent on its stance and may not bend its rules for MTN owing to several factors, including the telco taking it to court.
The telco was among other operators that were fined for not disconnecting improperly registered subscribers and was slammed N1.4 trillion fine for failing to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered SIM card users.
But much plea, the fine was reduced but MTN and NCC agreed over a 25 per cent reduction ($3.9 billion), which MTN felt should be 35 per cent.
Commenting on the development, Minister of Communications, Shittu Adebayo, at a forum said it was mandatory for MTN to meet the demand of the government.
However, the Minister did not give specific amount to be paid but insisted that the Federal Government will not give any attention until the demand is met.
He stressed that President Muhammadu Bubari in his magnanimity reduced the fine from N1.4 trillion to N780 billion after the telco pleaded for leniency.
Shittu said he had told the telco to show and attach its bank statements with a letter for further reduction of the fine.
“With this, we can know if truly MTN is in distress and cannot pay the N780 billion fine. Without this, MTN has to pay some fraction of the fine before any form of review can be done.
“When MTN came, we understood its pleas. However, we added that if you cannot meet up with the fine, you have to add your account details to show that upon paying it, your company will collapse. They are yet to respond on that.”
Meanwhile, MTN Group’s spokesman, Chris Maroleng, said the company, which makes 37 per cent of its sales in Nigeria, expected the talks with the NCC to lead to an amicable resolution.