The Federal Government has confirmed that MTN Nigeria has paid N80bn of the N330bn fine imposed on it for failing to deactivate more than five million unregistered Subscriber Identification Module cards.
Speaking at the News Agency of Nigeria Forum in Abuja on Monday, the Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, said that the company paid the sum for the first year.
It will be recalled that MTN was initially fined $5.2bn (N1.04tn) for failing to deactivate more than five million unregistered SIM cards but the fine was later reduced to N330bn.
Shittu stated, “For the first year, they paid N80bn, including the initial N50bn, and they will have to pay for three years until they will complete the N330bn.
MTN does not have a choice; when the law was made, it said for every unregistered SIM card in use, the fine is N200,000; the law never anticipated that one company will be in violation to the tune of millions of lines.
“It was inconceivable; so, when the thing was added N200,000 times 5.2 million lines, it came to N1tn plus.”
The minister added, “When it happened, MTN did four things: one, they accepted that they were in default; two, they apologised for that; and three, they committed themselves never to allow such a thing to happen again; and number four, they asked for remission.
“The government had to look at a number of factors, because if they have to pay this amount, they will pack up. We also knew that we invited the international community to come and invest and anything that will be done, which will shake the confidence of international investors in the Nigerian economy, we must avoid it.
“Consequently, we must not throw away the baby with the bath water; if they had packed up and left, let us assume all their staff members are not more than 5,000, it means all of those 5,000 will lose their jobs.
“Also, those who made investment and who bought shares will lose their shares, and the Nigerian banking sector will go into a crisis.”
The minister said that even in the court system, if one was fined and could not pay for one reason or the other, the person would ask for reconsideration, either by way of appeal or by bringing up a motion.