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Reps insist telecom giant must pay N780 billion fine

This comes after the house invited the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, to appear before it next week to explain and justify their roles in the negotiation process.

People walk past an outlet of South Africa's MTN Group in downtown Cape Town, November 10, 2015.  REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Reports reveal that the House of Representatives is insisting that telecom giant, MTN Nigeria, must pay the N780 billion fine imposed on it by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

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This comes after the house invited the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, to appear before it next week to explain and justify their roles in the negotiation process.

According to Nigeria CommunicationsWeek, reports surfaced yesterday suggesting that MTN had, in its proposal for a settlement with the Federal Government, had only planned to pay N300 billion out of the N780 billion fine.

MTN's plan reportedly involved a N50 billion 'goodwill' payment, another N100 billion cash payment, and the balance sorted out via 'complimentary services'.

The report also stated that the South Africa-based telecom company proposed being listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) as part of the settlement negotiation.

In response, the lawmakers reportedly said that since MTN had indeed breached Sections 19 and 20 of the NCC Act, the telecom company was in no position to lay terms as it was doing.

When the investigative hearing on the matter resumed, EVC of the NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta, reiterated that the position of the regulator was that MTN paid the N780 billion fine even if it was in installments, according to the Nigeria CommmunicationsWeek report.

The Saheed Fijabi-led committee also said it couldn't understand why the NCC had been relegated to the background in the negotiation proceedings which had since been allegedly taken over by the Minister of Justice and AGF, Abubakar Malami, and the President's Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.

“We believe that NCC has not been allowed to take charge of the negotiation because it has been reduced to the background. NCC did the fines, it should be allowed to take charge but that is not the case here, someone is even doing the reduction without your (NCC) input.

"At the court, wasn’t the case between MTN and NCC? So, NCC ought to take the lead while others can provide support and advise. It is not a hidden fact that MTN is fond of finding ways to circumvent our laws. MTN must pay because we all remember the Gulf of Mexico spill and how those found culpable paid fully for it.

"It is even insulting that MTN is using listing on the Stock exchange as part of the negotiation. We must state it clearly that MTN is in no position to dictate the terms of negotiation in this case,” the committee said.

MTN had been fined by the NCC back in October last year for failing to deactivate 5.1 million unregistered SIMs.

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