By Olabisi Olaleye
FOLLOWING the Federal Government’s insistence that the dominant mobile t e l e c o m m u n i c a t i o n s operator, MTN Nigeria must pay a fine of N780 billion imposed on it for an infraction or attach a bank statement to its letter of plea indicating that it cannot accommodate the liability before any review is done, Nigerians at the weekend bared their minds on the company’s face off with its regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Many are however, concerned that MTN’s body language seems to suggest the telco may be on its way out of Nigeria without making noise about it.
Asked what will be the consequence of current face off, or whether MTN should leave the shores of the country, some members of the public bared their minds to Daily Sun.
For instance, Nnamdi Igbo says, “MTN was the second to roll out but it is now the envy of other telecoms operators due to its dominant status. Currently, MTN has 62 million subscribers and will not dare leave because if it does, Nigeria will not have anything to lose at all since we have the population and market. Its last annual report shows that MTN made its highest returns on investment in Nigeria, and will lose all that if it goes like that”.
Another industry watcher, Theophilus Obogo says, “If MTN wants to leave, it will quickly help the likes of Etisalat or Globacom to absorb its staff and spectrum. Remember the issues of spectrum and dominance were the key reasons the youngest operator took it to court. Nigeria won’t lose anything. To borrow the words of Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, “before telecoms, Nigerians lived well. Invariably, before MTN, there were other means of communication but some people who are addicted to the network may find it hard to shift base”.
For Opeyemi Ajanaku, MTN should find a way around the lingering issues and look for means to settle with NCC amicably.
“You can’t come to Nigeria and kick against her rules? You can’t do that in South Africa without being killed or maimed. MTN has the money but it doesn’t want to obey the rules of its regulator. It probably sees NCC as a business as usual regulator, not knowing that we are in an era of change with no room for manipulations. What will Nigeria lose? Nothing, absolutely nothing. We helped MTN to grow and it is regrettable that it wants to bite the fingers that fed it. MTN will swap out your recharge credit, deduct your money through unsolicited caller tunes, yet it doesn’t want to remit sanction money demanded by its regulator,” he wondered.
Teniola Nwabudike, on his response, stated that MTN may want to stylishly withdraw from Nigeria with its recent engagement of the US attorney to fight its case but at the same time, it should realise that Nigeria has the population and as such should be ready to play by the rule to retain its market share.
“If it leaves, no one will remember that MTN ever existed except in documents. Why? It’s obvious every telco is hungry for spectrum because MTN has what most of them don’t have. The telco must learn to play by the rule and borrow to pay its liabilities if it must remain in Nigeria otherwise we won’t miss it if it desires to go”.