The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), said it had begun the process of retrieving the N50 billion fine, which MTN Nigeria erroneously paid into the federal government recovery account that is with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, made the disclosure in Abuja on Monday, while addressing a press conference on his one year anniversary and achievements since he assumed office. He said the money ought to have been paid into the federal government consolidated account, which the NCC operates with the CBN, and not the federal government recovery account that is also operated by the CBN.
He explained that he had already written a letter to the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), that would facilitate the transfer of the N50 billion from the recovery account to the federation account.
He said NCC had also remitted N30 billon into the federation account, as part payment of the N330 billion fine imposed on MTN by the NCC, for violating the regulator’s directive on SIM card registration.
He said the additional N30 billion paid by MTN and the N50 billion earlier paid, which summed up to N80 billion, explaining that the amount was based on the payment agreement reached between the NCC and MTN. The payment agreement stipulated that MTN would spread payment of the total N330 billion fine within three years, starting with N80 billion in 2016. Danbatta told the journalists that MTN fulfilled its own part of the payment agreement for 2016, leaving it with a total of N250 billion that would be paid in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
NCC had in October 2015, fined MTN a whopping N1.04 trillion for violating its directive on SIM card registration, and gave it up-till November 16, 2015 to pay the fine.
According to NCC, it gave a standing order that all telecoms operators should deactivate all unregistered and improperly registered SIM cards on their networks, but discovered 52 million unregistered and improperly registered SIM cards on the MTN network. Each unregistered SIM card attracts a fine of N200,000 and MTN had 5.2 million unregistered SIM cards on its network, amounting to N1.04 trillion. After much plea on the part of MTN, NCC reduced the fine by 25 per cent, bringing it to N780 billion. Unsatisfied with the reduction, MTN went to court to challenge NCC over the fine in January 2016, but withdrew the case in February 2016, and paid N50 billion, as part payment for the fine.
The fine was again reduced to N330 billion and MTN was asked to pay the amount in three tranches.