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MTN and the N1.4trn NCC fine; subscribers call for sanity, justice

As the controversy over the N1.4 trillion fine on MTN lingers, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has given MTN Nigeria a deadline of 16 November to pay the fine imposed on it for failing to register the personal details of 5.1 million subscribers.

This deadline is coming after the  South Africa’s stock exchange, JSE Ltd, launched an investigation into the timing of the operator’s announcement of its penalty.

Both NCC and MTN are playing politics with this whole fine saga. As far as Nigerian subscribers are concerned, the sins of MTN in Nigeria are many. They range from poor network and call dropping to illicit credit charges on calls made.

It looks like MTN might get off this NCC charge rather easily. Subscribers also say that for the kind of profits MTN makes in Nigeria, the company gives little or nothing back to society, comparatively.

For NCC to be seen as fair, it has yet to prove that only MTN is guilty of what it has been penalised for. Subscribers suspect that Airtel, Glo, Etisalat, et cetera are guilty of the same offence and many others.

It is good to see NCC ‘fighting’ to bring sanity into telecom services in Nigeria, but it is better to see them winning the right battles because that would guarantee better services at fairer prices.

According to a report, the spokesman for the Nigerian Communications Commission, the country’s telecoms watchdog, was quoted as saying that the outcome of the discussion may affect the date.

A statement by MTN said its CEO is still in talks with the Nigerian authorities and its senior management and advisers also talking to JSE, after the announcement of the fine knocked around 20 percent off the company’s stock price.

‘‘That’s why they are having the discussion so that they can reach a solution,” the spokesperson said.

The report also said Nigeria’s presidency and internal security agency are involved in the talks.

As for the JSE probe, the head of the regulatory division, Andre Visser, said “the investigation will follow due process to establish whether there have been any breaches of the listings requirements and can be a lengthy process.”

Under South African capital markets rules, companies are required to immediately warn shareholders of price-sensitive information.

Meanwhile, Fitch Ratings has revised MTN Group’s outlook to negative, owing “to the risk of a significant cash outflow due to a substantial fine imposed on MTN’s Nigerian operations, which could increase leverage and pressure MTN’s credit metrics.”

This year of MTN’s “Better me” campaign, the irony is that this NCC fine saga begs the MTN question: Will subscribers eventually get a “Better MTN”?

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