NCC, FG to shelve talks with MTN until House closes probe

By The Citizen

The federal government has said that the planned new talks with MTN Nigeria, telecommunication firm, over the fine slammed on it for refusing to block unregistered lines within deadline, would be delayed until after the probe by the House of Representatives.

Adebayo Shittu, minister of Communications, told reporters yesterday after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, in Abuja that “As soon as the ongoing (parliamentary) investigations are concluded we will sit down with them (MTN)”

Last month, the House of Representatives launched a probe into whether Nigeria can reduce the fine, which had originally amounted to $5.2 billion.

In December, telecoms regulator NCC cut the fine to $3.9 billion.

The probe has hindered efforts by MTN to launch new talks aimed at getting the fine reduced further.

The House launched its investigation after MTN angered lawmakers by snubbing an invitation to its Nigeria Chief Executive Ferdi Moolman to appear at the telecoms committee, according to MPs.

MTN offered in March to pay $1.5 billion, according to a document seen by Reuters. And it dropped a legal case against the regulator as the first step in its efforts to reach an out of court settlement.

Last year, Nigeria imposed a deadline on mobile operators to cut off unregistered SIM cards, which MTN missed, amid fears the lines were being used by criminal gangs, including militant Islamist group Boko Haram.

Also at the press briefing, Shittu said that FEC approved what the Nigerian delegation did in Switzerland and then directed the Ministry of Justice to review the draft treaty for it to be domesticated as part of laws in Nigeria.

He said: 'At this meeting, the significant milestone was the fact that in all of the 150 years of existence of the ITU, a Nigerian in the person of Engr. Festus Dawudu, a Director of a Spectrum in the Ministry emerged as the Chairman.

'It has never happened that an African would be Chairman of the 150-year old body.

'Again, consequently, the Nigerian delegation signed the treaty and also a declaration to say that Nigeria reserves the right to react to any other member country which tries to intrude into what rightly belongs to Nigeria by way of the frequencies allowed Nigerians,' he stated.