The Federal Government has explained that the reason it reduced the $5.2billion fine slammed on MTN Nigeria was to encourage foreign investments in the country.
The Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, made the disclosure on Sunday in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital at an award ceremony in honour of Lekan Balogun, the Otun Olubadan of Ibadan land.
According to the minister, the Federal Executive Council took cognizance of the negative impact the burden of paying the record fine would have had on the nation, its people and the economy at arriving at the decision to reduce the penalty.
The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, last October slammed the fine on the telecommunications giant for violating the directive of the regulatory body in Nigeria.
MTN Nigeria was accused of disobeying the NCC’s directive to all telecoms service providers in the country to register subscribers and disconnect erring subscribers.
After repeated warnings to comply with its directive was ignored, at the expiration of the deadline the regulatory body gave to all telecoms service providers, MTN Nigeria was handed a $1,000 fine for each of the 5.2 million unregistered subscribers on its network, which it failed to disconnect, totaling $5.2 billion (N1.04 trillion at the time).
Mr. Shittu said there was pressure on the FEC from different quarters, which later agreed to reduce the fine imposed on MTN to N330 billion to be paid within a period of three years.
“As far as we are concerned, the MTN issue is a closed matter.
“Nigeria as a country must move on. We must not do anything to drive away foreign investors. Foreign investments are potent means of bringing about development and wealth creation”, he said.
The minister said that people must not forget that there were less than 500,000 telephone lines before the telecom operators came on board.
According to him, “Nigeria now has more than 152 million lines and MTN is the dominant operator in the field. It controls almost 50 per cent of the lines.
“Though, MTN violated the law and we had to penalise it. We must put a halt to the limitless crisis so that we don’t discourage foreign investors.
“That is what the Federal Executive Council has done to ensure we move ahead.
“We know for instance, that MTN operates in 22 countries.
“What it realises in Nigeria alone is more than what it realises in the other 21 countries put together”, he added.
Mr. Shittu also advised the telecoms operators against taking Nigeria and their customers for granted, warning that all infractions would be appropriately sanctioned.
“The operators owe a duty to Nigerians to continue to improve on their services. Nigerians have been paying through thick and thin to patronize them.
“To whom much is given, much is expected”, he said.