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MTN reduces fine to N200bn by paying additional N80bn—Minister

The minister of Communications, Barr Adebayo Shittu has revealed that government has receipted additional N80bn from telecoms giant, MTN Nigeria, being part payment for the fine imposed on it by the regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

It would be recalled that the regulator had on confirmation that the company has violated its 2011 Regulation on SIM card registration and deactivation of unregistered SIMs slammed a $5.2bn (N1.04 trillion) for failing to deactivate more than five million unregistered SIM cards but was later reduced to N330 billion in a yet to be cleared drama allegedly involving the presidency.

The recent payment of N80bn can be said to be the completion of first year repayment plan as after some negotiation, the government agreed to spread the fine across three year repayment deal.

Adebayo told journalists that “For the first year, they paid N80 billion, after paying the initial N50 billion, and they will have to pay for three years until they will complete the N330 billion.

“MTN does not have a choice, when the law was made, it said for every unregistered SIM card in use, the fine is N200, 000, the law never anticipated that one company will be in violation to the tune of millions of lines.

“It was inconceivable, so when the thing was added 200,000 times 5.2 million lines, it came to a trillion plus.

“When it happened, the MTN did four things; one they accepted that they were in default, two, they apologised for that and three they committed themselves never to allow such a thing to happen and number four, they asked for remission.

“Government had to look at a number of factors because if they have to pay this amount; they will pack up.

“We also knew that we invited the international community to come and invest and anything that will be done which will shake the confidence of international investors in Nigerian economy, we must avoid it.

“Consequently, we must not throw away the baby with the bath water, if they had packed up and left, let us assume all their staff are not more than 5, 000, it means all of those 5,000 will lose their jobs.

“Also those who made investment, who bought shares will lose their shares and the Nigeria banking sector would go into crisis,’’ he said.