$3.4bn MTN fine: Govt will respect court decision
By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria
Nigeria’s Communications Technology Minister, Alhaji Adebayo Shittu, has assured that the Federal Government will wait for court judgment on the suit instituted by MTN Nigeria challenging the powers of the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) to impose a fine of $3.4billion (N780 billion) over subscriber identity module (SIM) card registration breaches.
The original fine was $5.3billion (N1.4trillion) but was reduced after persistent appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to temper justice with mercy. The telco was later to take court action, a development that was shocking to some stakeholders in the industry.
Reading the minister’s lips, the telco may have got a temporary reprieve on the December 31 deadline it has to pay the fine or incur the wrath of the regulator further.
The minister who fielded questions from ICT editors in Lagos, when he visited Omatek Ventures Plc’s factory as part of his official visit to stakeholders in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector, said President Buhari, as an apostle of the rule of law, will not take any action that will hurt the interest of the judiciary.
He promised that the government will wait for the final decision of the court on the matter since all parties have subjected themselves to the judicial process.
Shittu said emphatically that there is nobody that is interested in the downfall of MTN or any other company for that matter but stressed the need for companies to play by the rules in the countries they operate.
He said because the case is already in court, "it is difficult to comment on such matter. "However, the ministry will await the determination of the court before any further action will be taken on the matter".
Shittu promised to unveil his blue print for the industry in the early January next year, promising that he will run an all-inclusive government with transparency as watchword.
The minister assured that the government will not abandon the works started by the former minister but will improve on them where necessary and implement new policies.
Said he: "By January, the Blueprint for ICT development in Nigeria will be unveiled. Whatever is on ground would form part of it. The change mantra is to improve on regulations in the industry."
While commending the efforts of indigenous ICT players including Omatek for what he described as a pioneering role in the sector, Shittu promised that efforts will be channelled towards ensuring that their products and services get patronage in the country.