NCC Bows, Agrees To Settle With MTN

NCC-and-MTNThe Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and telecoms giant, MTN may have reached an understanding as both parties have agreed to settle out-of-court on the fine imposed on MTN for not disconnecting unregistered lines according to NCC directions. Mathew OMEJE reports

All seems to be well between the NCC and MTN as the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, has explained that the Commission may consider MTN Nigeria plea to settle its dispute out of court. Speaking at an international press conference over the weekend, Danbatta explained that NCC’s counsels were already talking with MTN’s counsels on the issue of out of court deal.
According to him, “I can confirm that MTN still seeks out of court settlement. MTN is trying to get this issue settled amicably. We have been informed by our own counsel that the Honourable Judge handling the case has granted the request for a settlement on the matter.
“The intention is not to kill MTN because we would like the industry to continue. We would like it to be vibrant and I think this is a matter that needs to be resolved amicably and we are working towards that”, he said.
He pointed out that MTN had filed a law suit, but that the NCC was told by its lawyers late on Tuesday that it wanted an out-of-court settlement.
While speaking on the net worth of the sector, Danbatta disclosed that ICT has contributed over N500 billion in revenue into the coffers of the federal government and that there was every indication for the current 11 per cent contribution to the Gross Domestic Progression (GDP), to rise astronomically in the years ahead.
He also appealed to Nigerians to have their SIMs registered, and unveiled an eight point agenda on accessibility of service, affordability and availability of service.
It would be recalled that the telecommunications company, MTN, had sought an out of court settlement over the N1.04 trillion fine the Federal government through the National Communications Commission, slammed on it last year for failing to deactivate 5.1 billion unregistered phone lines.
MTN, which had initially dragged FG to court over the fine, arguing that it was outrageous, at a resumed hearing of the suit at the Federal High Court, Lagos recently, through its lead counsel, Wole Olanipekun, told the presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, that they have considered settling out of court with the Federal government.
Following the request by MTN, the presiding judge adjourned the case to March 18, 2016 hoping that both parties would have reached an agreement before then.
The Federal government had reduced the fine to N780 billion after the company complained.
Meanwhile, the management of MTN had dared the federal government of Nigeria and said it will not pay the N780bn fine.
According a statement issued by the telecommunications firm ahead of the December 31, 2015 deadline issued by the NCC, the Public Relations and Protocol Manager at MTN Nigeria, Funso Aina, said when a case is in court, there was a limit to the comments that could be made on it.
“Suffice it to say that based on the lis pendens rule (pending legal action), all parties are enjoined to restrain from taking further action until the matter is finally determined. This is consistent with previous judicial decisions in Nigeria,” Aina stated.
He further said that notwithstanding the lawsuit, “we would continue to engage with the Nigerian authorities to try and ensure an amicable resolution in the best interest of the company, its stakeholders and the Nigerian authorities. We urge our customers not to panic as we do not envisage any disruption to our operations.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Communications Commission has revealed that within a period of one year, the GSM networks have added 16,511,295 lines, an increase of 12.28 per cent.
The report obtained from the NCC, shows that in September 2014, the total number of subscribers stood at 134,507,329 lines, the total number of subscription to all telecommunications networks rose to 151,018,624 by the end of August this year. This means that within a period of one year, 16,511,295 lines, an increase of 12.28 per cent have been added.
The continued growth in the GSM networks may not be unconnected to the increasing difficulty that subscribers have been facing in recent times.
The acting Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umaru Danbatta, had at a public function in Abuja recently, acknowledged the problems being experienced by subscribers with the telecommunications networks.
According to him, the regulatory agency had stepped up its efforts to monitor and improve quality of service in the industry.
Danbatta said a quality of service task force had also been inaugurated to identify and recommend appropriate solutions to address the problem of poor quality of service from telecommunications operators.
Also, the report shows that the Code Division Multiple Access (popularly referred to as the CDMA) networks shrank as the lines in the network decreased from 2,406,382 lines to 2,125,941 lines within the one year period. This shows the dwindling fortunes of operators of the CDMA technology.
Although the CDMA operators deployed by Intercellular, Multilinks, Starcomms and Visafone preceded the introduction of the GSM technology in Nigeria, the technology has continued to decline as the GSM operators have over the years proved that they have better resources and market plan.
Similarly, fixed services declined from 190,719 lines in September 2014 to 189,523 lines by the end of August, 2015.
This shows that the growth in subscriber base in the country has been driven by the GSM operators, which include the four main service providers deploying this technology namely: MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat.


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