As controversies trail the imposition of $5.2 billion fine on MTN Nigeria over regulatory infractions remain unabated, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, at the weekend added a new twist to the debate, saying it only approved 25 per cent and not 35 per cent reduction of the fine.
Public Affairs Director of the commission, Mr. Tony Ojobo, who stated this on Friday in an interview with journalists in Lagos, put what the telcom firm is expected to pay federal government at N780 billion.
According to him, the mobile operator has up till two weeks to respond to its letter; thereafter, necessary action will be taken by the commission.
While noting that the NCC regulatory law was meant to protect the weak and sanction players that err, the commission’s spokesman pointed out that as such the regulator cannot act arbitrarily outside the law.
He explained that this was important so that investors can be assured that the regulator will not deliberately take actions that could result in the closing down of their businesses, stressing that the industry was regulated so that other players’ rights were not infringed.
While acknowledging reasons for the uproar over the sanction, Ojobo pointed out that every investor should always be concerned about the application of the rule of law in any business environment, a requirement, which he said, also touched on the regulators’ capacity to protect investors’ interest at the time of crisis.
He recalled that before $5.2 billion fine was slammed on MTN Nigeria, stakeholders and subscribers had complained about the levity of industry sanctions, saying NCC eventually discovered that it was easy for some operators to pay the penalty for infractions due to the leniency of the sanctions.
He said this prompted the fixing of the N200,000 penalty for any SIM card that was not properly registered by any operator in the telecoms sector.
“As a regulator, the NCC didn’t expect that any operator would disobey the law, knowing how severe the penalty was. Therefore, it was really shocking when we discovered that MTN Nigeria flouted the law, and NCC had no option than to enforce the law,” Ojobo said, adding that
the signal that the $5.2 billion fine would be sending to other players in the industry was that it is not going to be business as usual, which means whenever the regulator issues an instruction, it would be obeyed by all.
The commission’s spokesman further explained that the reduction of the fine would not affect future sanctions on the operator if it violates any industry guideline, adding that the reduction of the $5.2 billion fine earlier imposed on it was a decision taken in the interest of the industry.