Saturday, December 4, 2021

    Nigerian Subscribers, Stakeholders Attack NCC over MTN Fine

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    Babatunde Akinsola
    Babatunde Akinsola is aNaija247news' Southwest editor. He's based in Lagos and writes on the Yoruba Nation political issues, news and investigative reports
    Police officers keep watch during a strike of MTN workers outside the company's headquarters in Johannesburg May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
    Police officers keep watch during a strike of MTN workers outside the company’s headquarters in Johannesburg May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

    Stakeholders in the telecommunications industry on Friday decried the N1.04 trillion fine imposed on MTN Nigeria by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), saying it did not call for public celebration.

    They called for a review of the fine so that the Nigeria business environment, particularly the telecommunications sector, would not look scary to potential investors.

    The stakeholders told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that such fine was capable of crippling the entire business investment in the industry.

    NAN reports that NCC imposed the fine on MTN for failing to fully deactivate 5.2 million subscribers with unregistered and incomplete SIM card details on its networks within the stipulated deadline.

    According to NCC regulations, the fine was based on N200,000 per unregistered subscriber.

    NCC gave MTN up till Nov. 16 to pay the fine.

    Mr Gbenga Adebayo, the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), said that fine or penalty was not good for anyone.

    Adebayo said that the fines being imposed on telecommunication operators by NCC had not removed the problems being encountered in the industry.

    He said that imposition of such a huge fine of N1.04 trillion for non-compliance with the SIM card registration procedures needed further clarification.

    “Otherwise, the amount we are hearing will cripple an entire industry.

    “It is an issue of concern, and I think stakeholders need to handle it very carefully. It is not an issue that calls for public celebration.

    “We are not just looking at it as to how it will affect the company being fined but the implication on the entire industry, and that is our major concern,’’ the chairman said.

    Also, Mr Lanre Ajayi, the President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), told NAN that fine was an instrument to caution on the infringement of rules.

    Ajayi said fines should not be overused, adding that there were other ways to caution the operators on infringement of NCC rules.

    “We are placing too much emphasis on the use of fine and when it has to be used, it ought to be proportionate.

    “It is something that has to be reviewed so that Nigeria business environment, particularly the telecommunications sector, does not look scary to potential investors.

    “This is because if investors think that the regulator can just apply fines arbitrarily which will wipe out their investment, then people will be scared of investing in our economy.

    “Frequent use of fines may have some unintended consequences.

    “We believe that the intention of the fine is to ensure that operators comply with the rules, so, there can be other mechanism to ensure that,’’ he said.

    According to him, if there is infringement, there has to be penalty otherwise there will be anarchy, but the penalty has to be used with caution.

    In his remarks, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, the President, National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS), said that NCC and its agents should be blamed for the problem with the SIM card registration procedures.

    Ogunbanjo recalled that the regulatory body licensed seven agents to cover the six geopolitical zones of the country, adding that the exercise was not properly carried out by the agents.

    He said that due to targets and deadline given, the registration agents were not asking the complete questions required from SIM card users.

    “Rather than imposing fine on the operators, NCC should direct them to encourage subscribers to come and re-register on a N5,000 airtime, instead of the N1,000 airtime they were giving.

    “How can you possibly fine a corporate organisation over N1 trillion? It is obviously not tidy, it seems terrible.

    “It is not business friendly. It will discourage foreign investment in Nigeria. The penalty is too much,’’ he said.

    Mr Akinwale Goodluck, MTN Corporate Services Executive, confirmed the fine in a statement.

    The statement said that it related to the timing of the disconnection of the 5.1 million subscribers that were disconnected in August and September, 2015.

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