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MTN yet to officially react to allegations of exit plan from Nigeria over fines, ease of doing business

Getting to 24 hours after a senior executive of MTN Nigeria told Business Journal during a chance meeting in Lagos that the group may exit the Nigerian market over what it terms incessant imposition of fines and penalties on it by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and endless harassment by the National Assembly through Senate probes, efforts to get official response on the development have failed.

It would be recalled that Business Journal had quoted the official as alleging “Nigeria of today is a very hostile operating environment for MTN. Can you imagine that the NCC imposed a $5.2 billion/N1.04 trillion fine on MTN over unregistered SIM cards, tarnishing the brand reputation of the company across the world”.

Continuing, the official said “It seems very clear that the NCC EVC, Danbatta came into office with a negative mindset to kill MTN. And before we could recover from that dark episode,the Senate began harassing the company over alleged illegal transfer of $13.2 billion. I can tell you that one or two directors of MTN are already discussing the possibility of MTN leaving Nigeria if the endless hostility of NCC and Senate continues unabated this year.”

Facts are clear that due to breaches of a regulation MTN was part of, the NCC had imposed a fine of $5.2 billion on MTN in 2015 over sale of unregistered SIM cards. The fine was later reduced to N330 billion over a period of three years.

But in keeping with their oversight functions, the Senate commenced investigation against MTN Nigeria over alleged illegal transfer of $13.2 billion from Nigeria to its headquarters in South Africa through Diamond Bank, Citigroup, Stanbic IBTC and Standard Chartered Bank.

According to latest figures from the NCC, MTN Nigeria is the largest telecom operator in Nigeria with 39.91 percent of the market as at November 30, 2016. This translates to 61.2 million subscribers.

However, the company’s Internet Data subscription declined from 32, 386,071 in April 2016 to 32, 071, 779 in November last year.

However, the new development seemed to have created more doubt as the company before the end of 2016, made part payment of N80bn after the initial N50bn, thus reducing the fine down to N200bn.