MTN Nigeria has paid N80 billion of the N330 billion fine imposed on it for failing to deactivate more than five million unregistered SIM cards.
The Minister of Communications, Mr Adebayo Shittu, told NAN in Abuja that the company paid the sum as the first instalment out of the three years given for the completion of the payment. MTN was initially fined $5.2 billion dollars (N1.04 trillion) but the fine was later reduced to N330 billion. “For the first year, they paid N80 billion, after paying the initial N50 billion, and they will have to pay for three years until they will complete the N330 billion.”
MTN, he said, had no choice because when the law was made, it was for every unregistered SIM card in use. The fine, according to the law is N200, 000 and the law never anticipated that one company will be in violation to the tune of 5 million lines. “It was inconceivable, so when the thing was added 200,000 times 5.2 million lines, it came to a trillion plus. “When it happened, the 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 and number four, they asked for remission.”
He said the government had to look at a number of factors because they might pack up if they have to pay the amount as specified.
“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 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 are not more than 5, 000, it means all of those 5,000 will lose their jobs.
“Also those who made investment, who bought shares will lose their shares and the Nigeria banking sector would go into crisis,’’ he said.
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 bringing a motion.