By Justus Adejumo  |

 

The recent record-fine of N1.04 trillion imposed on leading telecommunications giant, MTN Nigeria, by the industry’s regulatory agency, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), may affect the future of the network in country and has already triggered a flurry of activities that will radically change its operational structure and strategies.
Besides the fine which is generating controversies among the industry stakeholders, there are palpable fears that more sanctions against MTN may soon follow to further compound its loss of about five million subscribers on its network.
However, some industry observers have commended NCC for the step, stressing that it is in the right direction because the network has been taking undue advantage of Nigeria and its people. They also stressed that Nigeria must be a country of rules to ensure business integrity.
Already a high powered team of the parent company, MTN South Africa, is the country to review the issues and take action to ameliorate the situation. Sources took Business Hallmark that a major restructuring is anticipated, which could lead to management changes.
Speaking with BH, Mr. Lanre Ajayi, President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), expressed concern over the development and how it will affect the fortunes of the company going forward.
According to him, “I sincerely sympathise with MTN. But it is important that rules are followed. And if there are no rules, and the rules are not followed, there will be anarchy. At the same time, the government or regulator should make sure penalties are commensurate. They should be proportionate to the offence.
I am happy most of the operators followed that regulation. These rules were well defined. NCC put this regulation in place as far back as two years ago with a deadline that if an operator does not deactivate and remove a line that is not properly registered, there is a penalty of N200,000 per SIM card.”
“For MTN, even with the expiration of the deadline, NCC said they called the network’s attention to the expired deadline with some meetings with the operator, but still did not do anything about it. NCC discovered about 5.2 million incomplete registered lines and they multiplied that number by N200,000. This is how NCC arrived at N1.04 trillion. I sympathise with MTN, but for any community to function properly there must be rule and people must abide by the rule.
When BH contacted Mr. Goodluck Akinwale, MTN Corporate Services Executive, he responded with a request for text a message. But there was no reply to the text message sent to his phone as at press time.
Also, attempts made to speak with the Public Affairs Director of NCC, Tony Ojobo, were not successful, as there was no response to phone calls neither did he reply to a text message sent to his phone. More of concern among some analysts is the possibility of the company shedding its staff strength to be able to make up for the fine imposed by NCC.
Already, there is uneasiness among the telecom giant’s senior management staff as the company has begun review of the staff because of the N1.04 fine slammed on it by NCC, according to a source.
The source also stated that the South Africa office expressed displeasure over MTN Nigeria inability to meet the deadline to disconnect 5.1 million subscribers.
With this, the review may likely affect most of the top executives, including the Chief Executive Officer. The kidnapping of elder statesman and a former Secretary to the Federal Government (SGF), Chief Olu Falae, last month compounded matters for MTN when it could not provide information on its mobile numbers that were used by the kidnappers to negotiate a ransom with Falae’s family for his release.
According to sources, this might have provoked the heavy fine slammed MTN. With this development, there are fears that if MTN complies with the order to pay the fine, it may as well take its own pound of flesh by significantly reducing investments in its operation.
Also, attention to its Corporate Social Responsibility function through MTN Foundation may decline.  The network recorded subscriber strength of about 62 million customers at the end of September.