By Isaac Anumihe
Few months after Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) slammed a N1.04 trillion fine on Mobile Telecommunications Company of Nigeria (MTN) for failing to deactivate some 5.1 million subscribers, the firm has landed into yet another $4.2 billion trouble over its licence bid in Iran.
This time a telecommunications firm, Turkcell, had sued the company over a disputed Iranian mobile phone licence.
Turkcell first sued MTN in a U.S. court in 2012, alleging the company used bribery and wrongful influence to win a lucrative Iranian licence that was originally awarded to it.
But it had to drop the suit in 2013 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a separate case made it clear that U.S. courts would not have jurisdiction in a claim involving two foreign firms in an overseas dispute.
However, in 2016, Turkcell filed another case in South Africa, where the case has been stuck in procedural wrangling since.
But MTN had claimed in a defence that Turkcell’s claim is opportunistic, an abuse of the process of court, baseless and without merit.
Recall that MTN obtained the licence in Iran in 2005 and maintains that Turkcell missed out because it did not comply with an Iranian rule that caps the shareholding in the licence at 49 per cent.
Iran is MTN’s third largest market out of the 22 countries the company operates in.
MTN previously appointed a retired British judge to lead an external investigation into Turkcell’s allegations. That probe dismissed the accusations as “a fabric of lies, distortions and inventions. Turkcell was not immediately available to comment.
In Nigeria, the failure of MTN which controls 43 per cent of the country’s telecommunications market, to fully deactivate subscribers with unregistered and incomplete Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) cards details within the stipulated time earned the South African firm a fine of N1.04 trillion.
NCC officials feel belittled and disrespected after MTN sent low ranking officials to a meeting which was attended by high ranking NCC officials, members of the SSS and officials from the office of the National Security Adviser.
As if that wasn’t enough NCC said their enforcement and monitoring officials were denied access at the MTN office to their switches for inspection.
The N1.04 trillion fine is said to be as regards the timing of the disconnection of 5.1 million MTN Nigeria subscribers who were disconnected in August and September 2015 and is based on a fine of N200, 000 for each unregistered subscriber.
However, the matter was later resolved with the telecommunications firm agreeing to stagger the payment. ENDS