The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has fine MTN Nigeria of N1.04 trillion ($5.2bn) for failing to disconnect subscribers with unregistered and incomplete subscriber identification modules (SIM) cards within the stipulated time.
The fine which is the largest in the history of telecom infringements may redefine the relationships between telecommunications operators and the regulator. Technology Times which broke the story last night said NCC fined MTN Nigeria “for allegedly undermining efforts by the Nigerian government to tackle security challenges and the war on terror and allied crimes, as the telecoms operator has allegedly refused to deactivate unregistered mobile phone lines on its network”.
A top official of MTN Nigeria who spoke to our news source with name withheld confirmed that NCC truly issued the fine against MTN Nigeria.
“This fine is unprecedented in the history of Nigeria. The amount is even bigger than the entire budget of the Federal Government of Nigeria. It is enough to make the operator close its operations in the country.”
Another top telecom official in the industry also questioned the motive behind this gargantuan fine said the highest fine ever fined an operator in the country is N200 million. Last Thursday, MTN Group had announced that its Nigerian operation lost 5.1 million subscriber lines in the month of August to the deactivation of incomplete SIM registrations ordered by NCC. This has led to MTN cutting its full-year forecast for subscriber numbers.
Nik Kershaw, MTN Group spokesman confirmed that MTN Nigeria is also facing “ongoing regulatory restrictions” related to its market-leading position in Africa’s most populous country. About 3.4 million of the customers have been reconnected, the company said.
“it does point to a tough regulatory environment,” Steve Minnaar, a money-manager at Cape Town-based Abax Investment, said by phone according to agency reports. “They have been struggling with the regulator for many years in the Nigerian environment.”
The order to deactivate the lines followed a meeting between Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Department of State Service (DSS), the network operators and the NCC to examine the security threats posed by unregistered SIMs. Thereafter, the NCC handed down a seven day ultimatum starting from August 4, 2015 to GSM operators to deactivate unregistered subscriber identification modules (SIMs) with invalidity status