NCC breaks silence, defends historic N1.04 Trillion MTN fine

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•Airtel, Globacom and Etisalat also penalised

By Adedeji Fakorede

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has finally broke its silence on the jumbo N1.04 Trillion it recently slammed on industry leader, MTN Nigeria. In a statement issued in Abuja by NCC Public Affairs Director Tony Ojobo said the industry regulator decided to clear the air about the historic sanctions because “members of the public have expressed diverse interest as to what actually transpired.”

Mr. Ojobo explained that the fine was a result of violation of Section 20(1) of the Registration of Telephone Subscribers Regulation of 2011.

Section 20 (1) of Registration of Telephone Subscribers Regulations 2011 states that:

“Any licensee who activates or fails to deactivate a subscription medium in violation of any provision of these Regulations is liable to a penalty of N200,000.00 for each unregistered but activated subscription medium.”

According to the statement, “The fine of N1.04Trillion on MTN Nigeria by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) was done in the interest of the public which has been at the receiving end of security challenges.

“Consequent upon the overwhelming evidence of non-compliance, and obvious disregard to the rule of engagement by MTN, the NCC had no choice but to impose the sanctions.

“MTN, in a letter of November 2, 2015 admitted the infraction and pleaded for leniency.  The Commission has acknowledged this and is looking into their plea without any prejudice to the fine. The fine remains but the appeal and other engagements with MTN may affect the payment deadline.

“The fine that was imposed on MTN was the second within two months after the operators were given a seven-day ultimatum to deactivate all unregistered and improperly registered Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) Cards. While others complied, MTN did not.

“On August 4, 2015, at a meeting of all the representatives of the Mobile Network Operators (MNO), with NCC, major security challenges through preregistered, unregistered and improperly registered SIM Cards topped the agenda after which Operators were given the ultimatum to deactivate such within seven days.

“On August 14, 2015, three days after the ultimatum expired, NCC carried out a network audit, while other Operators complied with the directive, to deactivate the improperly registered SIM Cards, MTN showed no sign of compliance at all.

“Please recall that four (4) Operators; MTN, Airtel, Globacom and Etisalat, were sanctioned in August for non-compliance of the directive to deactivate the improperly registered SIM Cards.  MTN got a fine of N102.2 Million, Globacom N7.4 Million, Etisalat N7 Million and Airtel N3.8 Million fine. Others complied while MTN flouted the fine.

“Based on the report of the compliance Audit Team, an Enforcement Team which visited MTN from September 2 – 4, 2015 wherein MTN admitted that the Team confirmed that 5.2 Million improperly registered SIM Cards were still left active on their network; hence, a contravention of the Regulations was established.

“Consistent with the Commission’s enforcement process, MTN was by a letter dated October 5, 2015, given notice to state why it should not be sanctioned in line with the Regulations for failure to deactivate improperly registered SIM Cards that were found to be active at the time of enforcement team’s visit of September 15, 2015.

“On October 19, 2015, the Commission received and reviewed MTN’s response and found no convincing evidence why it should not be sanctioned for the established violations.

Accordingly, by a letter dated October 20, 2015 the Commission conveyed appropriate sanctions to MTN in accordance with Regulations 20(1) of the Telephone Subscribers Registration Regulation 2011, to pay the Sum of N200,000.00 only for each of the 5.2 Million improperly registered SIM Cards.

“In order to ensure proper identification of telephone subscribers with their biometric data and in line with international best practice, the Commission came up with a framework for the registration of telephone subscribers in Nigeria. (Nigerian Communications Commission Registration of Telephone Subscribers Regulations 2011).

“The above Regulations were developed with the full participation of all key industry Stakeholders including all Mobile Network Operators (MNO) in 2011.

“The Commission on its part has a statutory responsibility to monitor and enforce compliance to the rules. More so, when national security is at stake.

“As a responsible Regulator, the NCC will not stand by and watch Rules and Regulations for Engagement being flouted by any Operator. Ojobo said.

The Commission further stated that it has adopted a smart regulation in its oversight function in the industry, hence it has weighed the implications of sanctions that is why it had to place the appropriate sanction accordingly.”

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