Communications Technology Minister Adebayo Shittu yesterday said the Federal Government had no intention of bending the rules to allow MTN go unpunished over the subscriber identity module (SIM) card infractions that earned it a N1.4trillion ($5.2billion) fine.
He, however, said President Muhammadu Buhari has the final say on the fine, adding that the president will apply his wisdom to decide the fate of the telco.
Shittu said the sheer number of pre-registered SIM cards discovered on the network of the telco was alarming and worrisome, arguing that MTN has not disputed the “charge” but had apologised and promised not to do that again.
The minister who spoke on the sideline of the meeting of the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4A1), his maiden official visit to Lagos, said: “They (MTN) admitted that they were at fault and they apologised for their role in the whole saga. And they have made a commitment that what happened will never happen again and of course we will take the necessary decision at the appropriate time.
“Nigerians should expect that Mr. President will do the best to ensure that public interest is guaranteed. It is not about the money itself; it is about making sure that Nigerians appreciate (the need to respect the law). I want to repeat this, nobody wants MTN to die. It is not in the interest of Nigeria for MTN Nigeria to die because as far as I am concerned, MTN Nigeria Limited is a Nigerian company. It may have originated from South Africa, but it is a Nigerian company. The Chairman of the board and the Chief Executive Officer are all Nigerians.”
The minister who said he is one of MTN customers said the telco is loved by Nigerians and should take further steps to Nigerianise itself by listing on the floor of Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).
“Of course, I will advise that to make MTN more Nigerian, they need to make MTN more open their doors to all Nigerians so that they will be more acceptability of MTN. MTN has made great strides, it has virtually opened our eyes to telecommunication benefits. And actually, we love MTN because MTN is part and parcel of the Nigerian dream. There are thousands of Nigerians who earn their living in MTN. More importantly, I am a subscriber of MTN from day one that MTN came to Nigeria and I don’t want to be dispossessed of it. So we don’t want MTN to die but what we are doing can be compared to a parent whose child does something wrong. And you know well that if you spare the rod, you will spoil the child. “MTN is not the only operator that is in Nigeria. Other operators have complied and if we don’t punish infractions, then you give a signal to other operators that they too could do same. And that means that it doesn’t pays to be obedient to the laws and regulations. I pray that the issue will be resolved in the best interest of the country by Mr. President,” he said.
He said the recent decision of Nigeria Governors’ Forum on the issue will not sway President Buhari’s decision on the matter, adding that the issue is like a court’s judgment which required the decision of a superior court to be vacated.
“The President will take the best decision. It is his responsibility and I am very sure that in his wisdom, he would do what is right. Whether Governors take a position or not, laws have been established about how to deal with an issue like this. It is just like a judgment. If a judge gives a judgment on any matter, the judgment remains valid, whether somebody says otherwise or not, his judgment would be upheld.
“Of course if you go on appeal, the court where you appeal may decide to review the earlier judgment. But until that is done, the judgment remains the judgment,” he said adding that the decision of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on the fine remained sacrosanct.