Some concerned Nigerians on Monday, opposed NCC’s decision to reduce the N1.04trn fined on MTN by 25 per cent. According to them, this decision tells the world that NCC is not concerned about the fundamental rights of Nigerians which the Nigerian constitution supports. They suspect an underground agreement between the Commission and MTN. Speaking further on the issue, some critics explained that “No Nigerian institution or public office holder has the absolute power to howsoever reduce the fine, without legitimate recourse to the Nigerian people” .
Now, we remember that the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) in October, penalized MTN with the total sum of $5.2 billion (N1.04 trillion) for failing to meet its deadline to disconnect all of its 5.2 million unregistered subscribers. According to the rule, each of the unregistered subscribers attracted a surcharge of N200,000. The commission also ordered the stipulated amount to be paid on or before November 16.
The fine imposed on MTN Nigeria was meant to curb the high security challenges faced by the Nigerian people. According to the commission, registration of all subscribers was made mandatory to ensure proper identification of users with their biometric data and in line with international best practice.
Having received that, MTN was said to have made much effort to seek for leniency on their sanctions. They have written to the commission and also met with the Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari, but their efforts turned abortive until few days back when they received a letter from NCC acknowledging their plea by reducing the fine from N1.4trn to N780 billion.
Speaking on the reason for the reduction, the Director, Public Affairs of the NCC, Tony Ojobo said that the commission acted in the interest of the stability of the telecom sector. According to them, MTN’s appeal for the regulator to tamper justice with mercy in the letter dated November 2, 2015, alongside it’s huge investment and its large subscriber base in Nigeria were part of the factors that led them to reconsider.
Moreover, critics speaking on the interest of Nigerians said NCC’s action is a breach of Part X, Sections 86-88; 142(3-4) of the 2003 NCC Act. It is also a breach of Section 36(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Article 21(5) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. These laws assure Nigerians their fundamental rights to fair hearing and freedom to dispose of their wealth and natural resources in the exclusive interest of the people. This was interpreted to mean that the NCC conspired with MTN against Nigerians.
Insisting that the breach of the fundamental human right is non negotiable in any part of the world, therefore MTN must pay the stipulated amount earlier fined and the money should be transferred to the Federation Account for the benefit of Nigerians.
On the other hand, it appears that the new fine is not yet acceptable by the MTN body. It therefore intends to appeal the revised fine again, claiming that no company as their’s has of N780 billion lying around to pay in one fell swoop and in such a short time frame.
“We are certainly going to appeal the new fine, the fine is still big enough to cripple MTN’s ability to invest in its network, we hope that NCC will accept our plea” they said.