NIGERIA – Despite a plea from MTN that the action it instituted in court to challenge the imposition of N1.04 trillion fine on it by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) be settled out of court, Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu has insisted that the telecoms firm must pay the N780billion it was asked to pay.

The NCC had fined the MTN N1.04 trillion for its failure to deactivate 5.2 million SIM cards on its network that were either unregistered, or improperly registered.

The instruction had been given to all telecoms operators in the country, and government said it was aimed at addressing the spate of insecurity in the country believed to be largely perpetrated through the use of mobile phones.

However, the fine was reduced by about 25 per cent to N780 billion; but dissatisfied, MTN resorted to court action to challenge the powers of NCC to impose the fine on it.

In an interactive session with journalists, Shittu recalled that even after the telecoms firm admitted it committed infraction, and asked for forgiveness, upon which government in its magnanimity, decided to reduce the fine of N1.04 trillion by 25 per cent to N780 billion, the MTN was still not satisfied thus it decision to approach the court.

He said: “The same MTN is now pleading with government for out-of-court settlement, but government’s position is that MTN must first pay a substantial amount of the fine, before government can listen to its plea.

Shittu, who aligned with government’s position said: “If MTN feels it cannot pay the fine or that paying it would amount to grounding its business, government has also told MTN to release its financial books to government, stating its income and expenditure, to enable it (government) understand its true financial strength, which has turned out to become the largest telecoms operator in sub-Sahara Africa.”

The minister also noted the huge losses that Nigeria incurred, following the sharp drop in the global price of crude oil, could be regained if the right support was given to Information and Communications Technology (ICT) development in the country.

He said government must begin to take a deeper look into the activities of ICT in the county, with a view to developing the Nigerian economy, though the use of ICT.

Citing the case of Rwanda, Adebayo said the country, whose population is far less than Nigeria population, has been able to deploy ICT in all government activities and was able to use ICT to block all financial leakages in the country and generate more funds for government.

“I am pleased with what is going on in Rwanda and other countries that have embraced ICT for full national development and we are going to replicate that in Nigeria, to address the many challenges of the country, beginning from corruption, which President Muhammadu Buhari is trying to address in Nigeria,” Shittu said.

“I see ICT advancing development in Nigeria, if properly applied and implemented, and it is for this reason that I insisted on a new roadmap for ICT in Nigeria.

Work has reached advanced stage for the production of a new roadmap on ICT for Nigeria and the final copy will be made public in the next one week, and thereafter, committees will be set up to implement it, Shittu said, even as he called on Nigerians, especially the private sector, to willingly partner government on several ways to drive ICT development in the country.

Oil and Gas cannot be self sustaining, because it is tangible, but ICT development can be self sustaining because it is knowledge driven.

Once the idea is right, we will continue to draw endlessly and limitlessly from the pull of knowledge, and that is what ICT is all about and that is exactly what is driving the globe.

So I see ICT as something Nigeria can tap into to regain the huge finances we have lost in the past in petroleum resources, whose global price continues to shrink, Adebayo said.

“In order to revive the Nigerian economy, government must develop the ICT sector, which today, is the driver of economies globally. My plan is to turn Nigeria into a digital smart country that will rely more on ICT for development.

The ICT revolution I am looking at, is about Nigeria and Nigerians must come together and work together to achieve the ICT revolution,” Shittu said.

February 11, 2016;