NCC Explains Delay In Settlement Of MTN Fine

The Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, wednesday said the absence of instrument of negotiation on the part of government was one of the reasons MTN had not commenced the process that would lead to the full payment of the N780 billion fine imposed on it last year.

He also admitted that key agencies had not made inputs into the proposal made by MTN to government to facilitate the negotiation process, adding: “This is being collated as we speak and very soon, a team which we already have in place will enter into direct negotiation with MTN.”

The EVC spoke during a courtesy visit by the Director General of the National Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC), Mr. Adolphus Joe Ekpe, in his office in Abuja.

He said the N50 billion paid by MTN was a mark of good will for negotiating an out-of-court settlement, adding that it was not part of the N70 billion the commission generated within the last six months from sale of spectrum broadband.

Danbatta said: “NCC has generated N70 billion from the sale of spectrum broadband and spectrum within the six 6 months. This money belongs to the Nigeria people and is remitted into the federation account for services to be rendered to Nigerians by the government.”

On the proposal made by MTN on a convenient mode of payment, Danbatta said government is looking at it, adding however that he is not in a position to say whether it will be acceptable to government or not.
He said: “This is an ongoing process of negotiation and not until it is concluded, nobody will be able to offer a position on it.”

Asked on MTN’s preparedness to pay the fine, he said: “MTN didn’t say they were not going to pay. I did not read this anywhere in the papers, nor does their body language indicate unwillingness to pay.
Danbatta admitted that the most important thing is that the case has been struck out of the court and they have made a goodwill payment, saying. “This is an action that acknowledges their willingness to pay and to amicably resolve the matter, and it will be resolved.”

In his remark, Ekpe said the commission was visiting NCC to seek greater collaboration in the spirit of nation building that will help in the revenue generation base of government, adding that inter-governmental collaboration has not been adequate enough.

He said it had become expedient that there should be a platform for the integration of NLRC text message transaction monitoring and archiving platform for lottery schemes aided by telecommunication providers.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Communications Technology through the NCC, yesterday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on behalf of the federal government and the West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) at the ministry headquarters.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN), has denied any wrong doing in his handling of the settlement of the fine imposed on MTN Nigeria by the Nigerian NCC.
In a letter written on his behalf by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Salihu Isah, to the Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, the justice minister accused the Senate of failing to give him fair hearing before accusing him of wrong doing.

He said the negotiation with MTN has not been concluded as claimed by the senators.
Isah said he was compelled to respond to the spate of bad press as well as the obvious and deliberate sponsorship of same by those “who ordinarily should investigate and have the capacity to demand an explanation from the Office of the AGF (OHAGF/MOJ) on his role in the matter relating to the N780 billion fine slammed on the MTN by the NCC in which the company has made N50 billion down payment as a condition for it (MTN) to gain audience with the relevant government agencies for the out-of-court settlement as ordered by the court.”

He said: “However, for the benefit of those in doubt, it is so far, so good for the role my principal has played. I wish to state vividly that, when Mr. Eric Holder, the counsel to the MTN led a team to interface with my principal as the chief law officer of the nation- (mind you, Holder is a former Attorney General of the United States) and so wouldn’t have entered into the meeting if he was not sure my principal was most appropriate to negotiate with; even at that; the former insisted that MTN which the latter represents must show some commitment by ensuring down payment of N50 billion. The federal government insistence was that no audience could be granted to the telecom company or anyone acting on its behalf while the case is still pending in court and in the absence of demonstration of good faith by MTN.

“To this request, MTN offered to comply, and indeed complied by withdrawing the case unconditionally and to make an agreed payment of N50 billion ($250 million), an offer the FGN accepted only to grant audience to it and its counsel in relations to the settlement discussions (and without prejudice and in good faith). The payment was made on February 24th, into a Federal Government Recoveries Account with the Central Bank of Nigeria. The Company also filed an application to withdraw its pending suit in an attempt to fulfill the second condition for audience with the FGN on the matter. This was also confirmed by the Office of the AGF before it agreed to grant audience to MTN or its counsel. And having fulfilled the two conditions as demanded by the federal government through the OHAGF/MOJ; the MTN through its counsel Eric Holder and his Covington legal team thereby sought audience with HAGF/MOJ who yet denied going into any negotiations, but demanded a proposal of the terms meant to be discussed in writing. Mr. Eric Holder obliged those terms and the HAGF/MOJ who quickly despatched a mail through the normal official channel to the Honourable Minister of Communications and the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC inviting for their input before fixing any meeting.

“While still awaiting the responses of both, no meeting or discussion or negotiation has been held on the issue ever since. What the HAGF/MOJ did afterwards was to ask the MTN legal team to formally present its proposals on the matter so that technical input could be sought from all stakeholders before the FGN could grant them any audience. This proposal has now been circulated among the stakeholders for their technical contributions and that is where we were on the issue when the invitation of the Senate came in at a time when the HAGF/MOJ was embarking on a trip to attend an anti-corruption summit in the United Kingdom that he was earlier billed to attend before the invitation came handy.

“It is imperative to state at this juncture that neither an audience nor commitment was made by the HAGF/MOJ to MTN who was then waiting for the technical inputs and comments of the Ministries of Communications and Finance as well as the NCC with a view to harmonize the inputs and coordinate inter-ministerial meeting for a common position before considering an audience meeting or negotiation with MTN, all of which were aborted by the pre-emptive conclusion hastily reached by your committee.”

New Telecoms Company, NTel, Begins Operation April 8

Newest entrant into Nigeria’s telecommunications market, Ntel, has concluded plans to roll out services from April 8. Ntel, which plans to start from Lagos and Abuja, said it would offer Nigerians fourth generation Long Term Evolution (4G LTE) network service.

The Chief Executive Officer, Ntel, Kamar Abass, who disclosed this yesterday, in Lagos, said that all is set for the commercial launch following link from completion of agreements with channel partners as well as go-ahead from Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Abass said the telecommunications regulator has approved all licence authorization necessary for Ntel to launch its Voice over LTE (VoLTE) network using next generation telecommunications infrastructure.

He said Ntel has deployed about 600 base transceiver stations (BTSs) in the two cities with 2000 sites to be rolled out as the network expands.

Abass said already 200 kilometres of fibre optic transmission cables have been laid in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt for seamless network connectivity. He said Ntel has deployed LTE Advanced, the latest 4G technology with multi-antenna MIMO sites.

“We are rolling out physical sites in two cities on our 900MHz and 1800MHz bands to launch Voice over LTE come April 8, 2016. We have signed agreements with trade partners and fulfilled all licence authorisations and payments and we are up-to-date. There are no impediments to our launch,” he said.

Abass said NATCOMS Investments Ltd, the parent company of Ntel has project over $1 billion investments over the next four years.

To ensure smooth take off of its mobile network, the NATCOMS has completed the construction of Tier III datacenter as well as reactivation of SAT3 submarine international fibre optic cable.

It will be recalled that NATCOMS had last year paid $252.52 million to acquire the assets of the defunct first national operator (FNO) to begin commercial operation on its mobile network.

According to Abass, despite the growth of the telecoms sector in Nigeria which has seen voice subscriptions rise from less that 60,000 in year 2001 to over 147 million as at 2015, broadband usage has only grown by 20 per cent.

He said NATCOM has come to fill the gap bringing Nigerians unfettered access to full mobile broadband both on voice and data services.

Over the next four and half years, the total number of mobile broadband customers alone will be greater than all of the customers that have come into the market on mobile since its inception. In other words, we are at a point where a major transformation is in the making. You will see 168 million mobile broadband customers coming into being between now and the end of 2019, which is more than all the mobile customers (both narrow and broadband) that we have seen in the last 15 years.

“That sounds like an enormous transformation. When it comes to the supply of broadband services, we are unique because we have more spectrum, which can deliver more throughput than any network available today and potentially any network in the future. The spectrum we have has unique features which are simply unrepeatable on any other spectrum band” Abass said.

Telcos Fail To Meet Ministerial Ultimatum On Unused Data

Telecoms companies, Internet Service Providers and other companies offering Information and Communications Technology products and services have yet to commence the rollover of subscribed and unused data/Internet services after expiration.

This was discovered on Friday; exactly two weeks after the Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, issued an order for the enforcement of data rollover.

The minister had at a meeting with the telecoms operators asked them to roll over subscribers’ unused monthly data to the new month.

Shittu had told the operators that, “Many Nigerians have sent in petitions to the ministry over unauthorised charges and deductions for unsubscribed or unsolicited messages.”

In the wake of fixed wireless and Global System for Mobile operation in Nigeria, some operators had given subscribers between three and seven days to make use of their unused credit or lose such to the operator. Later, it was moved to 15 days.

Today, credits loaded directly can now be made use of up to 90 days.

However, promo-generated credits still have very short expiry dates.

Reacting to the development, the President, National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers, Mr. Deolu Ogunbanjo, described the operators’ refusal to comply with the minister’s directive as “a bad omen for the industry.”

The NATCOMS president said he was also pained by the failure of the Nigerian Communications Commission to implement the order.

“The operators have been credit depleting and riding on subscribers with the adoption of the Timed Guaranteed Income Policy, which denies consumer the right to satisfaction and the right of choice,” he said.

“The NCC must ensure immediate compliance by all telcos, ISPs and other ICT companies in order to put some smile on the faces of subscribers,” Ogunbanjo added.

MTN Says Negotiations Ongoing With FG Over N780bn Fine

Mr Ferdi Moolman, Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria has said that reports making round on the company’s final settlement of the N780 billion fine was false.

This is contained in a statement signed by Moolman on Saturday in Lagos.

Moolman was quoted in the statement as saying that the reports of the claim of settlement were premature, as the telecommunications company was still negotiating with the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“The management of MTN Nigeria is aware of the reports on the settlement negotiations.

“The confidential negotiations are still very much ongoing with the authorities to achieve an amicable resolution of the matter.

“Accordingly‎, no further comment can be made at this time,” the statement quoted Moolman as saying.

The company has been negotiating with the Government over a possible reduction of the fine and made a part payment of $251 million (N50 billion), also setting aside $600 million for further payment of the fine.

The Senate Committee on Communications, headed by Sen. Gilbert Nnaji, on Thursday, March 10 revealed how the Minister of Communications, Mr Adebayo Shittu and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) were sidelined in the process of negotiation.

The senate committee, which held an investigative hearing into the N1.04 trillion fine imposed on MTN was also, informed that the company had proposed to pay the sum of N300 billion between now and 2020.

The committee was told that a proposal for out-of-court settlement of the fine was already ongoing between the MTN and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, with respect of the fine which had been reduced to N780 billion.

Vice Chairman of the Communications Committee, Sen. Adeola Olamilekan (Lagos West), during the sitting, displayed a proposal from MTN, which he said was made to the government by MTN.

The solicitor-general of the federation, Taiwo Abiodun, was reported to have acknowledged the proposal. In the proposal, the telecommunications company told Government it could only pay the sum of N300 billion between now and 2020.

A breakdown of the proposal indicated that MTN, having already paid N50 billion to a recovery account at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), would pay another N100 billion via electronic transfer between Dec. 31, 2016 to Dec. 31, 2020.

The proposal further indicated that another N80 billion would be paid by MTN ”as a demonstration of its commitment to and confidence in the Nigerian economy and subject to necessary regulatory approvals.”

It added that MTN Nigeria would make a purchase of N80 billion of Nigerian sovereign debt issued on international market in 2016 to 2017. The proposal stated that the last tranche of the payment proposal would be N70 billion.

“MTN would pay through providing the FGN with access, subject to excess capacity to the company’s fibre network, for the purposes of allowing the Government to expand its e-initiatives (e.g visa processing, public service, connecting schools, registration etc.), from the date of the execution of this agreement through Dec. 31, 2020”, it added.

Subscribers Move Against Proposed Phone Call Tax

Nigerians have kicked against the Federal Government’s proposed communications service tax which they described as another way of exploiting the struggling consumers.

Angry subscribers who said they were yet to agree with the government on the newly introduced charges on bank transactions in its bid to generate more revenue due to the prevailing economic situations called on the National Assembly quash the proposal.

The new Communication Service Tax Bill seeks to impose, charge and collect Communication Service Tax (CST) and will be levied on service fees payable by users of electronic communication services which will be borne by the customers. The categories of communication services liable to the tax include voice calls, SMS, MMS, Data and Pay TV.

Abimbola Akanbi,a subscriber described the development as one which sought to stifle communications and impose further hardship on poor subscribers.

Akanbi who urged the government to seek other alternative ways to generate revenue said such bills if passed into law may bring about double taxation as the phone companies would hike their charges as a result of the cost they would incur in complying with the law and filing returns.
Another subscriber chidi Obinna, said the government had indirectly chosen another way to revive the social media bill.

“The implication of this is that Nigerians will have to pay more for communications services including data bundle to access social media. Should we pay more for these services, then there will be limit to how we visit these platforms because of fear of exorbitant charges.” Also reacting, The Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) said the bill should not be made to stand considering the inconvenience it would foist on subscribers.

According to Executive Secretary of ATCON, Ajibola Olude “Already, Nigerians are complaining of economy hardship, imposing another tax on them will add to their burden and in effect, reduce communications growth.
“As far as we acknowledge that it is a trying period for the economy, that is not to say that we should transfer the burden on consumers who are also strongly affected by the harsh economy status. Already, subscribers are already paying high for telecommunications services compared to what is obtainable in other countries. Asides this, telecommunicaton business will be largely affected because subscribers will reduce their interaction with telecommunications services and in turn affect the overall profits of service providers.” Olude noted.

According to a ‘Tax Alert’ publication by PricewaterHouseCoopers, PwC, Nigeria, if the Bill was enacted into law, it would mandate service providers to file monthly tax returns with Federal Inland Revenue Service ( FIRS) failure of which will attract strict penalties.


FG Finally Confirms MTN Payment

The Federal Government on Thursday confirmed that MTN Nigeria had made a payment of N50bn towards resolving its protracted dispute with the Nigeria Communications Commission over a fine of N1.04tn.

The Special Assistant to the Minister of Communications, Mr. Victor Oluwadamidare, made the confirmation in a statement made available to journalists.

Oluwadamidare described the N50bn as part payment, adding that the withdrawal of the case against the NCC and the payment had opened the door for further negotiations with MTN as requested by the company.

He said, “They have withdrawn the court case instituted against the Federal Government and the NCC and requested for further negotiations. This, the government, is willing to grant. You cannot stop listening to people.

“This clarification became necessary in view of the promise we made to keep Nigerians aware of what is happening as soon the information is available.”

MTN was slammed with the penalty in October 2015 after it missed a deadline to disconnect 5.2 million unregistered SIM cards from its network

The regulation guiding SIM card registration in the country had spelt that allowing an unregistered subscriber on a telecommunications network in the country would attract a penalty of N200, 000.

It imposed a $5.2bn fine that was later reduced to $3.9bn following an appeal and negotiation by the hierarchy of MTN.

Not satisfied with the level of reduction, MTN had approached the court to deter the government and the regulatory authority from taking any action by the end of the deadline for the payment of the fine.

Answering questions from journalists at the recent unveiling of the Communications Sector Road map for the period 2016 – 2019 in Abuja, the Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, had ruled out the possibility of out of court settlement until MTN had withdrawn the suit it instituted.

The Punch

Court Strikes Out Etisalat’s Suit Against MTN For Buying Visafone

The Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday struck out a suit by Etisalat against MTN.

The plaintiff challenged MTN’s use of the 800megahertz (MHZ) spectrum following its acquisition of Visafone.

Etisalat said it considered the action necessary to prevent MTN’s use of the spectrum as it would entrench the defendant’s dominance in the data services market.

The plaintiff said the use of the 800MHz spectrum to deploy broadband services ahead of its competitors, particularly those who prior to MTNs purchase of Visafone, held similar spectrum bands as MTN, would be to other telecos disadvantage.

Justice Ibrahim Buba struck out the suit on the ground that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain it.

He held that the court cannot interfere with NCC’s regulatory duties.

MTN Withdraws Suit Against NCC

MTN has withdrawn its suit against the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and paid N50 billion towards an amicable resolution of the fine imposed on the telecoms giant.

NCC had fined MTN N1.04 trillion for failing to deactivate 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards and later reduced the amount to N780 billion after the first round of negotiations.

However, MTN filed a suit as the December 31, 2015 deadline drew near, and later requested an out-of-court settlement. On Wednesday, the mobile phone company finally withdrew the case at the federal high court in Lagos in response to a request by the Nigerian authorities.

Ferdi Moolman, the CEO of MTN Nigeria said on the withdrawal: “This is a most encouraging development. It demonstrates a willingness and sincerity by both parties to work together towards a positive outcome.” MTN paid N50bn to the federal government “as a gesture of good faith and commitment to continued efforts towards an amicable resolution”, according to the telecoms company.

Moolman further said: “We are hopeful at this stage. Along with the authorities, it is clear that we are collectively committed to working towards a solution that is of mutual benefit to all parties. Our industry in Nigeria is an incredibly important example of the remarkable progress in ICT particularly as a much needed catalyst for socio-economic growth and development at this time.”

NCC To Sanction Telecom Operators Who Defraud Nigerians Through Drop Calls

Prof. Umar Danbatta, the Executive Vice-Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commissions (NCC), on Friday, said the Commission would sanction telecommunication operators who defrauded Nigerians through dropped-calls.

Danbatta said this during a meeting with newsmen from the North West, North Central and FCT in Kano, where he presented the commission’s eight-point agenda.

According to him, dropped-call rate is the fraction of the telephone calls which due to technical reasons, are cut off before the speaking parties finish their conversation.

This, he said, were being used by some telecom providers to deduct money from phone users as the fraction was usually measured as a percentage of all calls.

He said that the Commission had put in place mechanisms to ensure regulatory excellence and operational efficiency to maintain commitment to transparency.

Danbatta explained that part of the measures was for NCC to monitor calls, adding that any call that was not a dropped-call and was charged would be detected and the telecom provider sanctioned.

He added that “there is a limit to which a call can be dropped.

“We have put in place parametres to monitor what is happening, especially as regards drop calls, this will locate the operator to ensure that they maintain standards.

“When these parametres are analysed, we will be able to detect the drop calls from service providers and the operator’s attention will be drawn to enable it to address the problem.

“If we do not notice any sign of improvement on dropped call rates, then we will sanction erring operators.’’

The NCC boss said operators should know that they were being monitored by NCC and that the day of reckoning when their activities would be made public was around the corner.

Danbatta, however, assured the public that the issue of monitoring the cognitive performance indicators was key to NCC, adding that consumers’ right would be protected.

He said erring operators would be identified and necessary regulatory action would be taken in order to improve the quality of service to Nigerians.

He urged Nigerians to utilise the Commission’s 622 call number to send their complaints for the purpose of resolving them.

He reiterated the Commission’s resolve to continue to promote and empower consumers from unfair practices through the availability of information and education required to make informed choices in the use of ICT services.

Danbatta further said that the Commission was working on ways to improve data access in the country, even though the facility to support the project was not adequate yet.

“We are working on plans to improve data access in Nigeria and it is captured in the eight-point agenda of the Commission’’.

This, he said, would ensure that at least services were available, accessible and affordable to consumers.

He expressed the hope that access to the Internet would be free in Nigeria in the nearest future.