The executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, has confirmed that the commission would soon begin discussions with MTN for an out-of-court settlement over the N1.04 trillion fine imposed on the company for not deactivating 5.1 million unregistered subscribers.
Speaking in Lagos yesterday in his first world press conference, Danbatta said that the NCC’s lawyers on Tuesday evening officially communicated to the telecommunications regulator the decision of the presiding judge handling the suit instituted by MTN against NCC to grant both parties 60 days leave to discuss for an out-of-court settlement, Justice Mohammed Idris.
“I have been reliably informed by our counsel handling case that MTN wants to resolve this matter out of court.”
This information came to the fore after the minister made a statement that he is not aware of any out-of-the-court settlement plan.“Our lawyers, yesterday evening, informed us through a letter that the MTN wants to settle out of court.The intention is not to kill MTN. 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,” Danbatta said.
The statement by the NCC boss has reduced the tension generated by the minister of communications, Mr Adebayo Shittu’s statement early this week. Shittu had ruffled feathers few days ago by calling on MTN to withdraw its case against the NCC from the court if it wants to discuss with the regulator.
“If they withdraw it, it creates a better environment, an environment where there is no stress or pressure on either side,” the minister said.The NCC had in October 2015 penalised MTN for flouting Sections 19 and 20 of the SIM Registration Regulations 2011 which prescribed imposition of penalties of N200,000 per improperly registered SIM card. The telecom regulator fined MTN for not complying with its directives and that of the security agencies on the deactivation of unregistered simcards while other operators like Globacom, Etisalat, and Airtel complied forthrightly because of the security implications.
MTN only made a partial attempt to bar unregistered subscribers in selected areas over a few days in September 2015. On Thursday October 22, 2015, the NCC reviewed the registration records of all the telecom operators and took into consideration their compliance records.