Reduction of MTN’s N1.04tr Fine in Good Faith, Says Shittu

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Emma Okonji

The Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, has said that the reduction of MTN’s fine from N1.04 trillion to N330 billion by the federal government, was done in good fate to save MTN’s business from total collapse and to also protect the jobs of thousands of Nigerians that are on MTN’s payroll.

The minister who spoke in Abuja yesterday, said: “We must not throw away the baby with the bath water. If they had packed up and left, let us assume all their staff are not more than 5,000, it means all of those 5,000 will lose their jobs.

“Also those who made investment, who bought shares will lose their shares and the Nigeria banking sector would go into crisis.”

According to the minister, out of the N1.04 trillion fine for failure to deactivate unregistered SIM cards on its network, the federal government decided to reduce the fine to N330 billion.

He further said that MTN had paid N80 billion of the N330 billion fine imposed on it by the federal government for failing to deactivate more than five million unregistered SIM cards.

Shittu, who disclosed this at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) forum, said the payment was for this first year, representing the first tranche of the total payment.

MTN, Nigeria’s largest mobile operator, was initially fined 5.2 billion dollars (N1.04 trillion) for failing to deactivate more than five million unregistered SIM cards.

The fine imposed on the South Africa-owned company was later reduced to N330 billion.
“For the first year, they paid N80 billion, after paying the initial N50 billion, and they will have to pay for three years until they will complete the N330 billion.

MTN failed to deactivate 5.2 million unregistered SIM cards on its network, despite repeated warnings from the telecoms regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). The fine for the contravention of a single SIM was N200,000 and it was multiplied by 5.2 million SIM cards, totalling N1.04 trillion.

The NCC had no choice than to impose the fine on MTN. The law never anticipated that one company would be in violation to the tune of millions of lines, the minister said.

He said: “When it happened, the MTN did four things; one they accepted that they were at default; two, they apologised for that; three, they committed themselves never to allow such a thing to happen; and number four, they asked for remission.

“Government had to look at a number of factors because if they had to pay this amount; they would pack up. We also knew that we invited the international community to come and invest and anything that will be done which will shake the confidence of international investors in Nigerian economy, we must avoid it.”

The reduction of the fine was condemned by many Nigerians, leading to an enquiry by the House of Representatives.
The minister said that even in the court system, if one was fined and could not pay for one reason or the other, the person would ask for reconsideration either by way of appeal or a motion.