MTN Threatens To Shut Down In Nigeria Over Government Harassment
By Dana Sanchez Published: January 29, 2016, 11:59 am
MTN Nigeria building. Photo: itnewsafrica.com
MTN Nigeria and other operators announced at a Lagos press conference that they may have to shut down operations in seven Nigerian states over what they described as excessive harassment by government officials, according to a report in ITImpulse.
Some Nigerian states are treating telecoms as extractive industries and have imposed taxes on the operators that are normally paid by mining operators, according to Gbenga Adebayo, president of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria which serves all telecom operators in Nigeria.
When the operators are unable to pay, their base stations are closed down, and that’s harassment, Adebayo said at the press conference.
The South African mobile service provider is embroiled in a legal battle with Nigerian regulators over a $3.9 billion fine imposed in Nigeria in 2015. Nigeria wants MTN to drop its legal action and settle, the Nigerian telecommunications minister said, Reuters reported.
The states include Ogun, Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Osun and Kaduna states.
“We may be be forced to shut down network services in seven states over closure of base transceiver stations by the state governments,” Adebayo said.
He called for President Mohammeddu Buhari to intervene and said country’s cybercrime law of 2015 should protect telecom infrastructure from vandalization as well as government harassment.
“Unless we have a first level of protection of the government, it will be difficult to continue to provide uninterrupted services,” he said.
Nigeria fined MTN $5.2 billion in October for failing to disconnect users with unregistered SIM cards. The fine was reduced by 25 percent after negotiations.
MTN gets about 37 percent of its revenue from Nigeria, Reuters reported. The company is suing, questioning Nigeria’s legal grounds for imposing the massive fine.
Relations between South Africa and Nigeria are not great, according to IndependentOnline reported in November.
The huge fine will impact South Africa, reducing tax revenues from MTN significantly, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa told parliament. The MTN fine is an issue of national importance and interest for South Africa.
MTN’s regional office in Abuja shut down operations temporarily in April after a crowd protested xenophobic attacks in South Africa, BizNews reported April 23. Nigeria recalled its high commissioner and his deputy over the attacks, IOL reported Nov. 9.
In Nigeria, mobile base stations have been closed down arbitrarily in many states in an attempt to force service providers to pay “weird” local taxes and levies, Adebayo said.
Some of the so-called weird taxes include eco tax for gaseous emissions; taxes for sewage, sanitation and a public convenience levy.
“How can we be asked by state and local government to pay these types of taxes when we are not moving machines and production lines?” Adebayo asked. “What has telecom service got to do with sewage, sanitation and public convenience levy when we are not hotel and bar operators?”
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