What I Think About The N1.04 trillion Fine Levied Against MTN

Last weekend, NCC fined MTN Nigeria a huge sum of N1.04 trillion. The entire MTN Group (operating in 22 countries) is worth N4.19 trillion. That fine is like 25% of the entire MTN Group's worth. From the Shareholders value standpoint, MTN is better off selling its assets in Nigeria and pull out of Nigeria than pay the fine.

image: leadership.ng

What was the fine for?

Well, it was about the deactivation of unregistered SIMs. NCC said MTN failed to deactivate 5.1 subscribers before the deadline passed. And according to the NCC 2011 Act there is a fine of N200,000 per subscriber line that should be deactivated that wasn't.

So legally, the fine wasn't arbitrary and the rules had been made clear long ago.

So what is MTN saying?

MTN said it deactivated the lines but couldn't get it done within the short time window NCC gave and that it had explained to NCC before the deadline passed that it can only do a staggered deactivation over a month and not the 7 days NCC required.

So what do I think?

My thoughts are based on the following:

  1. MTN definitely can't afford to pay that huge fine. Our entire national budget is N4.493 trillion and we want to get one company to squeeze out N1.04 trillion. That's almost a quarter of our national budget. And as usual if we get it, we'll be sure to squander it rather than create economic value which the unwilling donor had been doing.
  2. Our international risk rate has just gone up. Our companies will find it hard accessing global investor funds and our big companies will now be faced with a higher rate international loans/bonds. We are slowly going back to how our economy was perceived during the military era. 
  3. The simultaneous hammering of Stanbic IBTC (another South African company) isn't helping matters too. Multichoice is probably expecting it would soon be accused of some random offence and hammered too. As much as we would like to see companies acting too big to be brought low, we might be doing more economic harm if we have one standard for the private sector and another for the public sector. If we can't prosecute the ones looting our treasury and are unsympathetic in killing the ones creating jobs for the masses, then we are doing ourselves more harm. The countries that levy this type of fine would have put many people in jail for the running to ground of NITEL. 

Back to what do I think. And it is a simple question -- What are we going to do with the money?


  1. Indeed, that is the question. I suspect a litany of court proceedings might ensue which will most probably end in MTN paying a smaller fine. Whichever be the case, your question is key, Mike: what will we do with the money?

    1. Yes o. But I don't think going the court route will favour MTN at all. They can only lobby from Aso Rock.

  2. This is exactly my line of argument in the office last week. Great analysis. Nicely done!

    1. Thanks boss! Glad to see that my opinion is similar to yours. Proof that my thinking has improved greatly since our Comviva days.

  3. That is the law and it is unfortunate that they defaulted. I think they assumed that NCC wouldn't react due to the amount and government bureaucracy. I read reports that kidnappers now use these unregistered sims sims operate and MTn will be used as a scapegoat. I have a little faith that the present administration will monitor the cash well since the money will go to the TSA account.


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