The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has issued a landmark fine of N1.04 trillion ($5.2bn) against MTN Nigeria for failing to disconnect subscribers with unregistered and incomplete subscriber identification modules (SIM) cards within the stipulated time.
The fine which is the largest in the history of telecom infringements may redefine the relationships between telecommunications operators and the regulator.
According to Technology Times, NCC fined MTN Nigeria “for allegedly undermining efforts by the Nigerian government to tackle security challenges and the war on terror and allied crimes, as the telecoms operator has allegedly refused to deactivate unregistered mobile phone lines on its network.”
An MTN official who is not authorised to speak on the matter however confirmed to LEADERSHIP that NCC truly issued the fine against the company. The official said “This fine is unprecedented in the history of Nigeria. The amount is even bigger than the entire budget of the Federal Government of Nigeria. It is enough to make the operator close its operations in the country.”
Another top telecom official in the industry also questioned the motive behind this gargantuan fine, saying the highest fine ever fined an operator in the country is N200 million.
Last Thursday, MTN Group had announced that its Nigerian operation lost 5.1 million subscriber lines in the month of August to the deactivation of incomplete SIM registrations ordered by NCC. This has led to MTN cutting its full-year forecast for subscriber numbers.
Nik Kershaw, MTN spokesman confirmed that it is also facing “ongoing regulatory restrictions”.