MNOs prefer paying fines to compliance, says NCC

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has expressed disgust at the attitude of mobile network operators (MNOs) in Nigeria when it comes to compliance, lamenting that they would rather prefer to pay fines for regulatory infractions to complying with laid down rules and regulations.

Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Dr Eugene Juwah who spoke during the Public Inquiry on Draft Regulations on SIM Replacement Guidelines and Enforcement Regulations, warned MNOs that a more severe punishment would be meted out to operators for violating laid down procedures for subscriber identity module (SIM) card registration in the country including SIM swap.

He lamented that all the measures were unanimously agreed to by all the stakeholders in the industry with a view to ensuring sanity in the telecoms industry would also extend to SIM Swap by phone users.

He said because of the growth, progress and success recorded in the industry over the years culminating in over 146 million active phone subscribers, operators found it convenient not to comply with regulations but pay fine and resort to business as usual.

Since the imposition of fines in naira and kobo has stopped yielding the reformative and deterrent effects, it would withhold regulatory assistance to MNOs that breach its rules.

To “Ensure a secure process for SIM Replacement and curtail the incidents of fraudulent replacements which have now become rampant in the industry,” he said new regulations have to be in place.

 “The regulations and guidelines will complement the Act and the respective licences issued by the Commission in addition to providing guiding standards and principles for enforcement processes and SIM replacements in the industry. This effort by the Commission will further ensure that the industry adopts international best practices while taking into consideration our peculiar operating environment.

“The fine is being increased from N5 million  to N10 million. What has happened in the industry is that there has been a rapid growth and we noticed that the incidents of non-compliance have become rampant as the regulations have been increasing.

“And because of the progress and success of the industry, you see that the fine of ten years ago is small and they can pay it, they can afford to disobey the regulations and pay the fines , so the fines have become not a deterrent, so what we have done now is to increase the fine and make it more painful when they do not comply with our regulations,” Juwah said, warning,  “If you continue to disobey and show non-compliance we can decide to withdraw regulatory assistance, so if you apply for example for some numbers on your network we would not respond.

“It is also our function to approve payment for software for telecommunication companies, it is a regulatory assistance; if you spent your money and buy software and you want to remit the payment, you have to obtain our approval, if we have withheld the regulatory approval, it means we would not give you that approval.”

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