The Federal Government has warned telecommunication company, MTN that it would not be intimidated by its court action over the N1.04trn fine imposed on the company which was later reduced to N780bn, stressing that it stands the risk of another fine if it fails to meet up the December 31 deadline.
This was disclosed in a statement issued by the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, on Monday while reacting to the suit filed by MTN at a Lagos High Court over the weekend.
Speaking through his Special Assistant on Media, Victor Oluwadamilare, the Minister however admitted that MTN had the right to seek the court’s interpretation if it feels unsatisfied with the action of the regulator but made it clear that the government would not hesitate to impose additional fine on the operator if it fails to pay at the expiration of the deadline.
Shittu said, “it is the right of MTN to approach the court but there was an infraction, which MTN admitted to have committed before it pleaded for leniency that led to the reduction of the fine from N1.4 trillion to N780 billion and the subsequent December 31, 2015 deadline to pay.
“If it has decided to go to court, it is still within the ambit of the law. I will not intervene, since they have gone to court, we will allow the court to decide if it is right for MTN to commit those infractions and breach the laws of the land.”
“it is unwise for MTN to go to court after the Federal Government had magnanimously reduced the fine. It will surely be fined for violating the rule at the expiration of the deadline, should it fail to pay the initial fine.”
Meanwhile, the telecommunications company has explained that its action was induced by commitment and belief in the long term sustainability of its business.
According to the company’s Human Resources & Corporate Services Executive, Amina Oyagbola, “the N780 billion fine has potentially dire consequences for the company, its employees, partners, stakeholders as well as the entire Nigerian telecommunications industry.
“Being a significant contributor in Nigeria, MTN has an obligation to protect the interests of its ecosystem of millions of Nigerians who are directly and indirectly affected by its business operations and continuity.”
Oyagbola continued that “the decision to seek judicial determination was reached after careful consideration of all factors, including extensive attempts at a sustainable resolution. It is important to state that seeking judicial determination was a last resort. We hold the Nigerian Government, its national objectives, laws and regulations in the highest regard.”
She, however, added that notwithstanding the action, the company will continue to engage with the Nigerian authorities in an effort to reach an amicable resolution in the interest of all stakeholders.
It would be recalled that the NCC had sanctioned MTN for refusing to remove over 5.1 million unregistered telephone subscribers from its network.
The regulator fined the telecoms operator N1.04 trillion, but later reduced it by 25 per cent after the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari, amid pressure and negotiations from the company’s parent body in South Africa.
The NCC also reviewed the deadline from November 16 to December 31, 2015.