Mobile giant MTN must pay substantial part of the N780billion fine imposed on it for subscriber identity module (SIM)registration guideline infractions before any out of court settlement could honoured, the Federal Government said yesterday.
The Minister of Communications and Technology, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, said the telco violated extant laws for which it accepted responsibility and wrote a letter of apology, promising to be a responsible corporate citizen.
The infractions were committed under the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan administration, which, according to Shittu, looked the other way. It took the courage of the government to apply the law, he said.
MTN begged for a revision of the sanction, “which Mr President graciously acceded to”, but the company turned around to say it had no money to pay.
The minister said the government replied, asking MTN to write a letter stating why it will go down after paying the fine and attaching a statement of its account so that the government will realise the dangers the payment will constitute to its financial health.
Shittu said he received a call from the telco informing him that it was going to court.
He said since the matter is now before the court, the government will wait for the court’s decision.
According to Shittu, nobody wants MTN dead. The company violated the laws for which there are consequences, he said.
MTN was sactioned about $5.1billion or N1.7trillion for fraudulently keeping some 5.2million preregistered SIMs on its network – a development analysts said amounted to sabotage in view of the security challenges facing the country.
Also yesterday, the MTN confirmed that it has been served with court summons based on a lawsuit filed by Emerging Markets Telecommunications Services Limited (Etisalat Nigeria) over the acquisition of Visafone.
In a statement, its Executive Amina Oyagbola, said Etisalat has filed a lawsuit against MTN and Visafone and we have filed appropriate processes before the court for necessary determination. “The acquisition of Visafone was concluded after obtaining all necessary statutory and regulatory approvals. I am not able to comment further as the matter is sub judice,”she said.
Oyagbola added that the acquisition allows Visafone and MTN to leverage resources for service enhancement whilst also deepening the growth and roll-out of broadband services across the country in support of the National Broadband Plan for the benefit of Nigerians. She also made reference to media reports credited to regulatory authorities that the acquisition would help sustain the continuity of CDMA services in Nigeria in addition to being beneficial to operators and subscribers.