NCC slammed telecoms operators with N120.4m fine

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All four telecom operators in Nigeria has been fined a total of N120.4m by the  Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)  for failing to fully comply with the directive to deactivate pre-registered and defective Subscribers Identification Module (SIM) cards from their various networks.

The Heat Nigeria gathered that MTN Nigeria incurred the lion’s share of the collective sanction, as the regulator asked it to pay N102.2 million as fine, representing 84.8 per cent of the total sanction.

MTN is the largest telecoms company in the country with over 43 per cent market share.

It currently has over 62 million subscribers on its network. The South African telecoms company was followed by Globacom, which was fined N7.4 million.

Etisalat and Airtel were also asked to cough up N7 million and N3.8 million respectively.

In a letter sent to all four networks, NCC, said the monitoring exercise revealed that the operators were still harbouring pre-registered and defective SIMs on their networks.

In the letter addressed to MTN, titled: “Re: Monitoring of Status Compliance with Stakeholders Resolution of August 4, 2015 on Deactivation of Incomplete and Improperly Registered SIM Cards-Notice of Sanction”, NCC claimed that in continuation of its monitoring exercise it placed voice calls to 402 MTN subscribers from among the list of numbers submitted to the telecommunications for deactivation.

“The numbers called are those whose registration were incomplete or invalid as regards facial capture and the responses from those affected MTN subscribers was that MTN has neither through text messages nor any other means invited them to come forward to validate and update their registration,” NCC stated.

The telecoms regulator said in accordance with Regulations 19 (1) and (2) and 20 (1) of the Telephone Subscribers Registration Regulation 2011, “MTN will pay to the commission the total sum of N80.4 million being fine for the contravention.”

It added that the amount should be paid on or before September 9, failure of which shall, in accordance with Paragraph 2, Part B, Second Schedule of the Nigerian Communications (Enforcement Processes etc.) Regulations 2005, attract N100, 000 per day for as long as it remains unpaid.

The second letter also asked MTN to pay another N21.8 million for the discovery of 109 additional pre-registered SIM cards purchased and found to be active on the network.

Also, in the letters addressed to other mobile network operators (MNOs), Globacom, Etisalat and Airtel, NCC recalled that at an industry engagement session of June 11, the commission had directed the MNOs, through its letters dated July 8 and August 4, to mop up all pre-registered SIM cards from the market.

The regulator said after the directive expired on August 11, it commenced monitoring of all MNOs to ensure compliance with the instruction.

According to the NCC, despite all warnings and pleadings to the operators, it found 37 pre-registered SIM cards still active on Globacom’s network, resulting in a N7.4 million fine for the indigenous telecoms company.

The same pattern of letter was addressed to Etisalat and Airtel, on whose networks 35 and 19 pre-registered SIM cards were found respectively.

Consequently, Etisalat has been mandated to pay N7 million as fine and Airtel N3.8 million.

NCC, however, warned that while it would continue to monitor and apply appropriate sanctions on the MNOs for all such preregistered SIM cards purchased by the commission, operators risk additional N100, 000 fine per day for as long as the fines remain unpaid.

The commission had asked the operators to deactivate over 37 million SIM cards from their networks because of improper registrations and after having discovered that about 45 per cent of registered SIM cards on their networks were invalid.

As such, NCC had sent 18.6 million numbers to MTN for revalidation, 7.4 million to Airtel, 2.33 million to Glo and 19.46 million to Etisalat.

“However, our monitoring showed that MTN had only removed just 1.6 million and put them on ‘receive only’ mode. Airtel had only removed 2.3 million SIMs, Globacom also removed only 3.5 million from the network, but it was also partially done. Etisalat barred only 3.3 million SIMs also.

“The current sluggish stance of the operators to follow the directive could make the operators secure regulatory wrath, as their action is tantamount to be against the interest of the nation in the government’s efforts at enhancing the safety of the citizens,” Idehen had said in an August 11 interview in Lagos. With over N31.1 billion said to have been spent so far on the SIM registration by the operators (N25 billion), stakeholders have continued to wonder why the exercise continue to face irregularities.

The renewed move by the NCC to enthrone sanity in the SIM registration database was consequent upon a meeting between Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Department of State Services (DSS), the network operators and the NCC, last month. Participants at the meeting took into cognizance crimes committed against members of the public either by kidnappers, terrorists, robbers and threats to lives, using unregistered SIM cards.

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