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Saturday, 27 February 2016

MTN pays N50bn fine, withdraws suit against FG

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By Olabisi Olaleye
OUT of the N1.4 trillion fine imposed on MTN Nigeria by the Federal Government, the telecoms firm has paid N50 billion even as it withdrew its case against government.
The company was sanctioned for its lateness in deactivating 5.1 million subscribers who were not registered properly. The suit was being handled by the Federal High Court, Lagos.
The withdrawal may not be unconnected with the insistence of an appeal by the judge.
The judge had given both parties (MTN and the Nigerian Communications Commission) till March 18, 2016 to settle out of court.
During legal preceedings, MTN hired a US-based lawyer, Mr Eric Holdings while pleading for a reduction in the fine.
But the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, had insisted that MTN must pay a chunk before any dialogue unless it is willing to show its bank statements showing that the operator is truly distressed.
On the withdrawal of the suit, MTN Nigeria Chief Executive Officer, Mr Ferdi Moolman, said the move was to facilitate the out of court settlement.
He said: “This is a most encouraging development. It demonstrates a willingness and sincerity by both parties to work together towards a positive outcome.
“We are hopeful at this stage. Along with the authorities , it is clear that we are collectively committed to working towards a solution that is of mutual benefit to all parties. Our industry in Nigeria is an incredibly important example of the remarkable progress in ICT particularly as a much needed catalyst for socioeconomic growth and development at this time”
Mr Moolman said MTN paid the N50 billion as a gesture of good faith and commitment to continued efforts towards an amicable resolution.
However, NCC’s Director, Public Affairs, Mr Tony Ojobo told Daily Sun that he was not aware of the suit’s withdrawal because there was no official communication from MTN.
“No one from MTN has neither discussed nor tried to reach the committee set up for the purpose. I am just surprised as well. We have our counsel and no one has brought that to our notice,”he said.
The Federal Government was bothered by the spate of kidnappings in the country as some telecoms operators were reluctant in releasing some of their customers’ call logs and locations. The government tasked the NCC on achieving a saner ecosystem. As a result, the commission directed that all telecom operators to deactivate improperly registered subscribers, but MTN was very late in deactivating its 5.1million customers.
The fine for a Subscriber Identity module (SIM) is N200,000 and with 5.1 million subscribers, this translates to N1.04 trillion which was slammed on MTN Nigeria in October 2015.
Subsequently, the fine was adjusted by 25 per cent to N780 billion, an amount that was considered inimical to the survival of the business. MTN Nigeria subsequently sought judicial determination as a means of protecting its business

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