By Adedeji Fakorede
Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said it had cut a fine on South Africa’s MTN Group (MTN.) by 25 percent to $3.9 billion (£2.5 billion), and blamed a typing error for an announcement made on Thursday it had reduced the penalty by 35 percent to $3.4 billion.
The Commission hit MTN with a $5.2 billion penalty in October for failing to disconnect users with unregistered SIM cards, prompting weeks of lobbying by Africa’s biggest mobile phone company to get the fine reduced.
After announcing on Thursday that the NCC had cut the fine by 35 percent to N674 billion, MTN said it had received a second letter saying the regulator had in fact intended to lower the fine to N780 billion.
“The information that was conveyed to them initially said 35 (percent reduction) but it was 25. It was a typo,” NCC spokesman Tony Ojobo said.
Nigeria has been pushing telecoms firms to verify the identity of subscribers amid worries unregistered SIM cards were being used for criminal activity in a country facing the insurgency of militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
But MTN said that neither the first letter nor the second letter sets out any details on how the reduction was determined.
The telecoms company said it is carefully considering both the first and second letters, and its Executive Chairman Phuthuma Nhleko “will immediately re-engage with the Nigerian authorities before responding formally, as it is essential for the company to follow due process to ensure the best outcome for the company, its stakeholders and the Nigerian authorities, and accordingly all factors having a bearing on the situation will be thoroughly and carefully considered before the Company arrives at a final decision.”
Ojobo, at an ICT event in Lagos yesterday admitted there was an error in the initial letter sent to the telecommunications firm, but that it was a quarter of the fine that the presidency actually agreed to cut off due to the diplomatic intervention.
He said when the error was discovered “we had to quickly communicate MTN about the error.”