Nigeria’s Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) did a good job of erroneously increasing the fine against MTN Nigeria to $3.9 billion 24 hours after reducing its initial penalty by 35% to $3.4 billion from the original $5.1 billion.
Then the clincher: “There was a typo,” Tony Ojobo, the telecoms regulator spokesman blurted out ‘innocently’ to Bloomberg and to whom it may concern: “The reduction should have been 25%, we saw the mistake and had to fix it.” Mr. Ojobo could have said that to the US Marines – for all I care!
On Thursday December 3, 2015, MTN Nigeria received a note from NCC stipulating that the penalty imposed on them in October will be cut by a third. But the company said on Friday it received a new set of instructions raising the fine by $500 million, with the deadline still scheduled for the end of December.
MTN Nigeria said: “The second letter, which was stated to supersede the first letter, informed the company that the fine had actually been reduced by 25%,” MTN said in a statement. “Neither the first letter nor the second letter sets out any details on how the reduction was determined.”
That so-called typo which stands for “typographical error” was most unfortunate. How can a whole NCC, the sole telecoms regulator of all telecoms businesses and investments in Nigeria make such a typo error?
In October, the NCC ‘patriotically’ slammed MTN Nigeria with a $5.2 billion penalty after the South African-based telecoms giant ignored an edict to disconnect all unregistered SIM cards in Nigeria from its networks.
Not a few Nigerians hailed NCC for being overtly patriotic and serious about regulating these foreign telecoms operators – especially in the light of the security implications for MTN’s recalcitrant behavior.
Notwithstanding the NCC’s nonchalant attitude or, maybe, willful collusion with MTN & co. in the vital areas of unpaid drop calls, unsolicited and invading text messages, arbitrary deductions from customers’ GSM phone credits without permission and sundry other invasions of privacy in Nigeria – apparently condoned by the NCC.
The fall out since then has been enormous. MTN lost over $5 billion in market value. on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). On top of that its group CEO Sifiso Dabengwa and its Nigerian MTN CEO, Michael Ikpoki, have had to resign over the issue.
It’s disgraceful that a whole telecoms regulator, NCC, could have made a typo error in downgrading a fine in front of the world, only for the world to hear and read that the NCC made a typographic error and had to eat its words.
I’m ashamed of NCC.
This is a disgrace to Nigeria,
By Nnamdi Ebo
Political scientist & Legal scholar