Nigerian lawmakers hike fine against MTN to $15.6 billion

Nigeria is MTN group's largest market with 62.8 million subscribers. PHOTO | AFP 

In a surprising move, Nigeria’s Nigeria’s House of Representatives has hiked to $15.6 billion the contentious $5.1 billion fine imposed on the South African telecom giant, MTN.

The fine which was imposed in October last year was later reduced to $3.9 billion after appeals and diplomatic intervention.

The company which has nearly 70 million subscribers was fined for failure to deactivate 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards from its platform as directed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

The lawmakers now say the initial fine was not properly determined as stipulated by law. They expressed annoyance with the NCC for what they felt was an “inadequate” fine.

The reduction of the fine was a flagrant breach of the law on this matter, the House resolved.

The motion was brought before the House by Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma (Edo Central), who insisted on the need to investigate the payment made by MTN on the fine levied by the NCC.

He 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 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.’’

Thus, according to Mr Agbonayinma, the cumulative penalty owed by MTN was $15.8 billion.

He observed that MTN’s initial payment of $250 million into the recovery account in violation of extant laws was not in order and expressed dismay that NCC was not part of the negotiations on the payment.

The parliamentary committee on telecommunication had on March 15 threatened to issue a warrant of arrest against MTN Nigeria’s CEO, Mr Ferdinand Moolman, for failing to honour its summons.

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