The Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, has said that the $5.2billion fine slammed on telecommunication giant, MTN, was reduced to encourage foreign investments into the country.
Mr. Shittu said this on Sunday in Ibadan at an award ceremony in honour of Lekan Balogun, the Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland.
He said that the Federal Executive Council, FEC, decided to reduce the penalty against the telecommunications giant after realising the negative impact the burden could have on the nation, its people and the economy.
The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, had slammed a $5. 2 billion fine on MTN for violating the directive of the regulatory body in Nigeria.
The NCC had directed all telecom providers in the country to register subscribers and disconnect erring subscribers. MTN did not meet the deadline to do so.
The South African telecommunication firm was thus fined $1,000 for each of its 5.2 million affected subscribers, totalling $5.2 billion.
Mr. Shittu said there was pressure on the FEC from different quarters, which later agreed to reduce the fine imposed on MTN to N330 billion to be paid within a period of three years.
“As far as we are concerned, the MTN issue is a closed matter.
“Nigeria as a country must move on. We must not do anything to drive away foreign investors. Foreign investments are potent means of bringing about development and wealth creation,” he said.
Mr. Shittu said that people must not forget that there were less than 500,000 telephone lines before the telecom operators came on board.
According to him, “Nigeria now has more than 152 million lines and MTN is the dominant operator in the field. It controls almost 50 per cent of the lines.
“Though, MTN violated the law and we had to penalise it. We must put a halt to the limitless crisis so that we don’t discourage foreign investors.
“That is what the Federal Executive Council has done to ensure we move ahead.
“We know for instance, that MTN operates in 22 countries.
“What it realises in Nigeria alone is more than what it realises in the other 21 countries put together,” he said.
Mr. Shittu advised the telecoms operators against taking Nigeria and their customers for granted, warning that all infractions would be appropriately sanctioned.
“The operators owe a duty to Nigerians to continue to improve on their services. Nigerians have been paying through thick and thin to patronize them.
“To whom much is given, much is expected,” he said.