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MTN reacts to Nigeria ultimatum

MTN reacts to Nigeria ultimatum

From Nigeria, MTN Group Executive Chairman Phuthuma Nhleko has expressed concern over the spate of attacks on the company in the West African country, believed to be reprisal action for planned anti-illegal immigration protests in South Africa.

Yesterday in Abuja protesters stormed the MTN office, with the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) giving South African companies operating in Nigeria, including MTN and DStv, 48 hours to leave the country.

In a statement, MTN urged all parties to 'exercise restraint and remain calm'.

Nhleko used his visit to Nigeria to appeal to the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) for more spectrum to support its local operations, specifically spectrum which belonged to Visafone, a CDMA company MTN acquired in 2015.

It would be recalled that while approving the acquisition of Visafone, NCC refused to approve the allocation of the acquired company's spectrum.

Nhleko said: "We have a very long way to go and so we ask for spectrum which is the oxygen and lifeblood to navigate this long and tedious investment journey, without spectrum, the sector will suffocate."

The Chairman also revealed the company's intentions to venture into mobile financial services in Nigeria.

MTN Nigeria was slammed with NGN330 billion fine following its refusal to disconnect improperly registered lines that were active on the network.

The issue went to court but was subsequently amicably resolved with industry analysts suggesting it could impact direct foreign investments.

Nhleko told NCC top management team, headed by the Executive Vice Chairman Professor Umar Danbatta, that MTN still has strong faith and 'implicit confidence' in Nigeria and the company is committed to further investment in the country.

Currently, he said MTN's investment in Nigeria has exceeded US$16 billion.

"We had challenges in the past, during the period of the fine, and we are grateful for the role the Commission played towards an amicable resolution," said Nhleko.

In response, Danbatta said the commission will always compel industry players, especially the operators, to follow the rule of law guiding their operations in Nigeria.

He said: "I like to state that our word is our covenant. When we take decisions, we are concerned about the stability of the industry and there is no way we can guarantee it without considering the dominant status of MTN and its obligations and if the dominant status is becoming stringent, we are open to engagement, we will be guided by what is happening in the market, to ensure the growth and development of the sector. The sector has contributed very well to the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and has shown remarkable resilience in this recession.

"We are open to further discussion on the areas of spectrum assignment. The Commission is here to protect the interests of the operators as well as consumers, consistent with our mandate, the trust reposed on us by the government and people of Nigeria; protecting their interests and ensuring a level playing field and respect for our laws."

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