MTN Fine: Communications Minister Contradicts Self on Negotiations

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Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

Despite his persistent claims that the Ministry of Communications and the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) were not involved in the downward review of the N1.04 trillion fine slammed on MTN Nigeria, the Minister, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, has said the ministry asked the telecommunications company to pay N50 billion as act of good faith.
MTN had been fined N1.04 trillion by the NCC for its negligence to deactivate 200,000 unregistered Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) card. The fine had been reviewed downward by 25 per cent to N780 billion.

Shittu, on several occasions had told the House of Representatives Committee on Telecommunications that the negotiations for the fine was taken over by the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, without consultation with his ministry.

He however, contradicted himself wednesday when he spoke at the sectoral debate organised by the House on economic diversification, where he also said the N50 billion is not part of the fine.

Shittu recalled that the MTN proposed an out of court settlement, after suing the federal government, and was asked to pay N50 billion as act of good faith.

The minister noted that negotiations over the fine could not continue due to the ongoing investigation into the matter by the House Committee.

The position of the lawmakers is that the fine cannot be reviewed downwards without an amendment to the NCC Act, which stipulates N200,000 fine for each unregistered SIM card.

The Chairman, House Committee on Communications, Hon. Saheed Fijabi (Oyo APC), pointed out that the minister had given a different information to the committee, and had denied involvement in the negotiations of the fine.