Nigeria's communications minister Adebayo Shittu has commented on the fine imposed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on MTN Nigeria and repeated remarks he made in November last year saying the government does not want the mobile operator to "die", but it must obey the country's laws.
Addressing journalists in Lagos this week, Shittu said one of the conditions for government's consideration of MTN's out-of-court request will be the operator's payment of a portion of the fine as a "show of good faith" in order to be taken seriously and would prompt authorities to resume re-negotiation with the operator.
"When MTN came, we understood their pleas. However, we added that if you cannot meet up with the fine, you have to add your account details to show that upon paying, your company will collapse. They are yet to respond on that. The next thing was for me to get a call they are going to court. And now, they are coming back for out of court settlement. We don't want MTN to die; rather, we want them to obey the law," Shittu said.
It would be recalled that a court sitting in Lagos had granted MTN's request for some time to pursue an out-of-court settlement with the Nigerian government through the NCC. According to the network, it would cease to exist if it is compelled to pay the hefty fine, a position that Shittu said is not the intention of the government.
"We don't want MTN to die; 99% of the staff are Nigerians. But when you default in the law, you have to bear the consequences; we want them to obey the law," Shittu told journalists.
In related development, lawmakers in Nigeria are attempting to resolve the impasse over the fine and this was disclosed by the Chairman of Senate Committee on Communication, Senator Gilbert Nnaji.
According to Nnaji, the committee has already initiated dialogue between the NCC and MTN with the hopes that the issue will be resolved amicably.
"We have waded into the impasse between NCC and MTN Nigeria, we have started dialogue but it is still an in-house discussion, it will not be made known to the media until we reach a concrete agreement between NCC, MTN and the Senate Committee on Communication. The matter has become very embarrassing, but with dialogue, the matter will be resolved. We don't want to hear that we are looking for foreign investors in the country and in the other way round, we are chasing them away, we can't allow that to happen," Nnaji told journalists.
The network has also confirmed it has been served with court summons in relation to the suit slammed on it by Etisalat Nigeria over its acquisition of Visafone and plans to deploy data services through the CDMA company's spectrum.
"Etisalat has filed a lawsuit against MTN and Visafone, and we have filed appropriate processes before the court for necessary determination. The acquisition of Visafone was concluded after obtaining all necessary statutory and regulatory approvals. I am not able to comment further as the matter is subjudice," said Amina Oyagbola, MTN Nigeria's executive in a statement.