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We are building MTN as Nigerian entity – CEO 

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LEADING telecommunication firm, MTN Nigeria, has said that it is setting the company as a Nigerian entity.

The company also said that the fine imposed on it by President Muhammadu Buhari-led government in 2015 forced it to obey the rules set by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

MTN Nigeria’s Chief Executive Officer Karl Toriola stated this on Thursday while featuring on Arise TV’s ‘The Morning Show’ as part of the company’s commemoration of 20 years of operations in Nigeria.

The Nigerian government had imposed a fine of N1.04 trillion on the firm over SIM registration rules breaches.

The infractions included the company’s failure to comply with the provision of the NCC Telephone Subscribers Registration Regulations 2011 and disconnect 5.2 million improperly registered Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) lines within the prescribed deadline.

The government said the lines had economic activities on them without proper registration.

Part of the punishment was that MTN must apologise to Nigerians, subscribe to the compulsory observance of the Code of Corporate Governance for Telecoms Industry, and ensure its listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).

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The MTN made spirited efforts to reduce the fine by engaging in a series of negotiations with the government, resulting in the reduction of the penalty to N330 billion.

The company paid the fine six times, and it was listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, making interested Nigerians own shares in it.

The arrangement followed a staggered payment plan the company sealed with the government.

By the middle of May 2019, the company had paid N275 billion of the fine to the Federal Government and made the remaining N55 billion payment before the month ended.

The MTN began the payment of its fine with N30 billion into NCC’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) 30 days from the date of the agreement, dated June 10 2016.

It subsequently paid N30 billion on March 31, 2017; N55 billion on March 31, 2018; N55 billion on December 31, 2018; N55 billion on March 31, 2019, and completed the balance of 55 billion Naira in May 2019.

Speaking on the TV programme, Toriola said: “We successfully engaged with the government and brought that (fine) to a close. It’s a way back behind us. We’ve fully paid the final agreed sum on the fine, and we were listed by introduction on the Stock Exchange as part of the agreement. 

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“We’ve built our relationships, and we’ve also redefined ourselves to take compliance to government regulatory policies as non-negotiable.

“Beyond that, we’ve taken a position of leaning into government policies and we are setting MTN as a Nigerian entity.”

He said the telecommunication industry had been a “massive catalyst” for the country.

The telco is a South African company, but Nigeria is its biggest market. The firm made N385.3 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2021.

According to the CEO, MTN Nigeria had enjoyed a robust relationship with the government and its subscribers, despite the punishment.

He said the organisation faced a business climate similar to Nigeria’s in countries where it operated and had the will to overcome them.

Toriola said following the organisation’s good relationship with the country, the Federal Government had taken some mutually beneficial decisions with the firm, including the Nigerian government’s approval of MTN’s participation in the construction of about 110 kilometres Enugu-Onitsha Expressway. 

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He said the organisation had contributed N3 billion to CACOVID, a non-state platform for supporting the fight against COVID-19 in the country.

He said the company had paid half of the money.

Meanwhile, MTN Nigeria would not comment on the raging debate on the electronic transfer of results of the 2023 election, Toriola stated.

Citing lack of national coverage by telcos, the National Assembly had voted against the electronic transfer of votes in the next general elections as part of the amendment to the country’s Electoral Act, against the wish of most Nigerians.

“I’m going to stay completely clear of INEC and election issues. That’s not our rule as a private sector operator. However, wherever we are called upon to serve the nation in any form, with capacity on our network, we will do so. We will do so to the best of our ability,” Toriola said.

Nigeria compelled telcos to adhere strictly to the Telephone Subscribers Registration Regulations (2011) following increasing insecurity and other crimes in the country.

For instance, kidnappers, terrorists and fraudsters use SIMs believed to have been improperly registered to conduct their businesses. 

However, despite supposed compliance with the regulations and introduction of other measures by the government such as the National Identification Number (NIN), crimes and insecurity have worsened.

MTN is one of the four major telecommunications operators in Nigeria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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