MTN Fine: Experts Warn of Implications on Digital Switchover

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Emma Okonji

Industry experts have called for a quick resolution of the MTN fine in the interest of the country’s quest to achieve digital switch over by the new date of June 2017. They have also warned that if the situation persists, it may send wrong signals and hinder the interest of local and foreign investors who might be willing to roll out their operations in the country to achieve this objective.

The Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, at a summit organised by the National Association of Information Technology Professionals in Public and Civil Service (NITPCS) in Abuja recently, said: “The National Assembly is investigating the matter. Some of us do not want to make comments because we believe our comments may alter the outcome of the investigation. As you have seen, the process of legislative investigation is still ongoing and I believe when the investigation is concluded the matter will be put behind us”.

Similarly, an expert in broadcast and communication, Dr. Dele Odunlami said Nigeria could no longer sustain the rigidity shown so far in resolving the fine issue particularly now that the country is in dire need of investors for its economic resurgence.

“I am aware that MTN is investing heavily in technologies and infrastructure that will bolster Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in Nigeria, particularly in the area of digital switch over, where Nigeria hopes to migrate from analogue broadcasting to digital broadcasting by June 2017. I know they have invested in the Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, capable of doing broadcast, data and voice. But, now that this issue of fine is dragging on for this long, I am afraid the company may be weighed down as I am sure they would want this matter resolved on time and I believe the earlier the matter is resolved, the better for the Nigeria economy” Odunlami said.

On the sentiment surrounding the fine Odunlami said: “The Nigerian public share the sentiments of the government for patriotic reasons but it is not as bad it is was made to appear. There are major considerations with significant ripple effects on the general economy in this instance. For example, there is anxiety among people working in MTN majority of whom are Nigerians. There is anxiety among investors to whom President Buhari have continually waved the olive branch of a favourable investment environment in Nigeria. There is anxiety over possible bilateral bickering particularly since the visit of President Jacob Zuma to Nigeria was assumed to help in resolving the matter diplomatically. In all, there is a need to calm the nerves by quickly resolving the issue and we all move on as a nation”.

Odunlami said that “resolving the MTN case has really been a set back by the investigation instigated by the National Assembly on the matter although their oversight functions must be acknowledged. The Nigeria Minster of Communications has informed that the investigation must be concluded before further negotiation. The Attorney General of the Federation had explained his role and that of his ministry when he informed that his action was based on the fact that MTN Nigeria had acted in good faith by withdrawing the case from the court and paid the amount they were told to pay as conditions for any possible negotiation with the Nigerian government. Having shown such good faith, I believe it is normal that Nigeria plays its part by concluding on the resolution rather than the actions of the National Assembly which seem to be raising unnecessary suspicion and sending a wrong signal to potential investors that Nigeria is rigid and intolerant.

“I believe the lessons have been learnt, hence, we should not sacrifice the economic prospects of the nation on the altar of political meddlesomeness,” Odunlami said.