MTN Nigeria SIM registration fine hiked to $15.6 billion

MTN

MTN Group conglomerate, MTN Nigeria fined $5.2 billion in 2015 by Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) is facing a possible hike to $15.6 billion in a bizarre turn of events. Nigeria’s House of Representatives wants hiked the fine slapped on MTN Nigeria for failing to deactivate the SIM cards of some 5.1 million subscribers as stipulated by an NCC directive.

In a case of shifting goal posts, the NCC initially fined MTN Nigeria $1,005 for each unregistered subscriber totaling to $5.2 billion but a 25% fine reprieve after appeals meant MTN only had to pay $3.4 billion. The NCC immediately increased this bill to $3.8 billion (35% reduction of the $5.1 billion) blaming the hike on a typing error.

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House of Representatives interpretation

Nigerian lawmakers in the House of Representatives now say the fine imposed by the NCC and the subsequent reduction following MTN Nigeria’s leniency appeal was not in accordance with stipulated laws. Hon. Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma was quoted by Nigerian online newspaper ThisDayLive. He said:
“MTN ought to have been fined under both Section 19 and Section 20 respectively with a cumulative penalty of N3.12 trillion, and not N1.04 trillion, which is a gross violation of the combined reading of the NCC Act.”

He [Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma] pointed out that the Nigerian Communications Commission regulations prescribed that any licensee who failed to capture, register, deregister or transmit the details of any individual or corporate subscribers to the central database as specified is liable to a penalty of N200,000 [$1,005] for each subscriber medium.
The regulations also say that “a licensee who activates any subscription medium without capturing, registering and transmitting the personal information to the central database commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine of N200,000 for each unregistered activated subscription medium.” ~African Review

Political backlash

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari met with South African President in Nigeria on 8th March 2016 to sign ‘over 30 bilateral agreements and Memoranda of Understanding’ according to reports by Nigeria’s Vanguard e-paper. Jacob Zuma promised to return Nigeria’s confiscated arms purchase funds seized by the South African government in a move widely seen as an attempt to smooth over frosted relations between the two countries.
There have been calls to persecute MTN Nigeria for the role Nigerian lawmakers and the President claim MTN played in the death of an estimated 10,000 people at the hands of the notorious rebel outfit, Boko Haram. The unregistered SIM cards are claimed to have been used by the rebels to communicate without a trace as they carried out their deadly attacks.

President Muhammadu Buhari:“The concern of the federal government was on the security of the country and not the fine imposed on MTN. You know how the unregistered GSM lines were used by terrorists and between 2009 and today, at least 10,000 Nigerians were killed by Boko Haram“~Vanguard

MTN Nigeria Marketshare

MTN Nigeria

Nigeria mobile subscriber stats: Nigeria Communications Commission

MTN shares dipped 20% in 2015 following the NCC directive and another 10% last week following speculation of the $15.6 billion fine despite assurances. MTN CEO, Ferdinand Moolman angered the lawmakers when he declined to honour a summons by Nigeria’s House of Representatives Telecommunications Committee to discuss more on the issue.

Other MTN Group fines

MTN Uganda was fined $662,000 in 2015 for sabotaging competition and another 5 billion Uganda shillings ($1.5 million) in a separate case for breach and non compliance with the directive as per  section 41 (1) (a) and section 41 (2) (b) of the Uganda Communications Act. MTN’s repeated defiance was in particular the directive to desist from using short codes 157,169, 178, and 183. Read more

South Africa based MTN Group is the 8th biggest mobile network in the world with 227.5 million subscribers as of March 2015. In Africa, Nigeria (62.5m), South Africa (28m), Ghana (15m) and Uganda (8.9m) contribute the most to its subscriber base. MTN has invested millions of dollars in sports development and charitable initiatives in Africa.

Featured Image: TimesLIVE