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MTN claims N10b expenses on SIM registration


SIM CARD. Photo credit wikipedia

SIM CARD. Photo credit wikipedia

ALTHOUGH the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) under the former Executive Vice Chairman, Dr. Eugene Juwah, expended about N6.1 billion to register Subscribers Identification Module (SIM) cards in the country, Mobile Network Operator (MNO), MTN has also hinted of how it has so far spent about N10 billion on the project.

MTN currently controls 43 per cent market share and has 62.8 million subscribers in Nigeria.

NCC had formerly in 2010, introduced SIM card registration across all networks and gave the operators six months to complete the exercise, but the operators, who had argued on the rationale of completing the exercise within the NCC’s given time frame, could not eventually meet the deadline then. It was that situation that actually compelled NCC to seek Federal Government’s approval of N6.1 billion to enable the commission began its own registration process. NCC began its own in March 2011 and recruited seven consultants for the entire country.

While, it appears that the registration remains unending in the country, MTN has warned that it will take punitive measures against any of its agents found wanting either collecting money before registration or involved in any pre-registration of subscribers.

Speaking at a capacity training for journalists in Lagos on Tuesday, where the telecommunications firm also hinted on steps taking by the operator to comply with the NCC’s directive on pre-registered SIM cards, MTN Nigeria’s Senior Manager, Regulatory Affairs, Quasim Odumbaku, who said credible subscriber data was critical to the telecommunications firm’s future, added, “this is why MTN invested over N10 billion in the project till date. We also understood that NCC spent over N6 billion to register existing subscribers.)

Odumbaku listed challenges bedeviling the exercise in the country to include incomplete registration; fraudulent registration (provision of fake personal information) and pre-registration/sale of pre-registered SIMs (registration of SIMs for the purpose of sale).

He explained that all SIMs in the listed categories, according to NCC are to be reverted to pre-registered status within 48 hours, stressing that heavy fines and penalties are imposed for default.

“NCC seeks to hold operators exclusively liable for these defaults, regardless of cause”, he stated.

According to him, the challenge of pre-registered SIMs, which he referred to as the biggest problem, is out of the control of the operators. “The challenge has been that there is no law limiting the number of SIMs a subscriber can have and register. This shouldn’t be. This gap has been exploited seriously. It is difficult for the system to detect at once, anyone with double or multiple registrations. The systems are not real time.”

While warning agents against acts capable of undermining the process, Odumbaku said MTN is legally obliged to take decisive actions against trade partners (TP) who permit breach of registration processes.

He said actions to be taken on this include the provision of details of implicated TP/agent to NCC and law enforcement/security agencies (including armed forces) to aid apprehension.

Odumbaku said there would also be suspension of contract and recovery of damages, stressing that criminal prosecution will be at NCC’s instance.

To avoid these costly, unnecessary and unpleasant escalations, he said MTN encourages all to ensure responsible practices, including “full compliance with registration requirements; sighting of customer’s identification before registration; no registration of SIMS still in the pack and the engagement of only qualifies and well trained personnel.”

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