MTN’s coat of many troubles
For South African-based telecoms giant, MTN, one of Nigeria’s leading telecommunications network providers, reports of numerous allegations against them have become the norm.
Today, the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) directed the mobile telecommunications operator, MTN Communications Nigeria Limited, to pay N1.85m to one of the winners of its Ultimate Wonder Promo for lack of due diligence after being paid N150,000 instead of N2million, The Punch reported. The CPC, on the strength of various observations, directed MTN to pay within 14 days of receipt of the order despite MTN’s claim that the complainant deceitfully presented himself when winners in the N2m category were called forward on the day of the prize presentation.
Last year, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) found MTN guilty of violating the Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) registration regulations, by failing to disconnect unregistered subscribers and subsequently fined MTN with a record fee of $5.2 billion.
From an initial $5.2 billion fine with a payment deadline of December 31st 2015, MTN pleaded for mercy and the NCC eventually slashed the fine by 25 percent. In a bid to delay payment after the deadline, MTN, claiming to have acted on legal advice, filed a suit against the NCC challenging the regulatory agency’s power to impose such a fine.
MTN appeared to have won the first case against the federal government when the court ruled out the federal government’s decision to freeze the company’s accounts within the country. The victory gave MTN the effrontery to step its case against the federal government of Nigeria further, by hiring former United States Attorney General, Eric Holder. The question now, however, is how legal is it for MTN to hire a former US Attorney General to defend a case in Nigeria.
In both Uganda and Cameroon, MTN has been accused of tax evasion. The telecoms company, wisely staying on the right side of the law, used a tax avoidance scheme called Transfer Pricing; a new cellar door constructed by the most ingenious of accountants which third world economies are the most vulnerable to.
The resurgence of the Biafran movement under the Buhari-led administration came as no surprise but it is most disappointing that a company like MTN, which has consistently prided itself as the foremost telecommunications operator in Nigeria, could play a role in undermining the country’s territorial integrity. Radio Biafra transmitters were installed on MTN masts in Enugu and Anambra states to boost its coverage in Nigeria, fuelling further troubles in a relatively peaceful country.
According to City Press, DJ Cleo, Flavour N’abania and Capasso, a body which collects mechanical music royalties on behalf of artists accused MTN of not paying royalties in 2014 and failing to declare music sales and earnings for 2015. According to Capasso, the network owes the body at least R1 million in mechanical royalties.
Similarly, in November last year, MTN commenced an out-of-court settlement process in a N500 million copyright suit filed against it by Mr Omenuwoma Dovie, an Abuja-based entertainer/artist for copyright violations of four of his original musical compositions and recordings.
Among other telecommunications companies operating in Nigeria, MTN comes in first place in the number of various allegations filed. Etisalat and MTN have been at loggerheads for the Nigerian retail space dominated by MTN with a 44 percent market share of the mobile voice market as at 2013. In July last year, Etisalat accused MTN of breaching the norm amongst telecommunications operators following MTN’s Family and Friends tariff which restricted outgoing traffic to smaller operators by making on-net tariff price lower, making off-net calls unattractive. Earlier this week, Etisalat sued MTN following an acquisition of the last surviving Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operator, Visafone Communications.
It is therefore safe to say that MTN appears to have joined the list of multinational corporations which have a lot more to contend with in its operations across other countries.