At 20 as Nigeria’s largest telco, MTN is counting its challenges and gains even as it insists that compliance to government regulatory policies has become non-negotiable as a standard corporate practice.

Chief Executive Officer Karl Toriola recently told Arise TV that the company has redefined itself to be more engaging with government at all levels and to avoid falling out of the compliance range in its dealings with the authorities.

The telco was fined an unprecedented N1.04 trillion by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for refusing to comply with the Telephone Subscribers Registration Regulations 2011 that imposed on it the obligation to disconnect 5.2 million improperly registered SIM lines within the stipulated timeline.

After series of negotiations including diplomatic interventions by the South African government, MTN had its fine reduced to N330 billion and allowed to pay in six instalments. In addition, it must get listed at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) to begin its journey as a quoted company in Nigeria.


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Toriola recalled that moment as a defining point for MTN in its evolution in Nigeria’s telecom market.

“We successfully engaged with the government and brought that [fine] to a close. It’s a way back behind us. We’ve fully paid the final agreed sum on the fine, and we were listed by introduction on the Stock Exchange as part of the agreement.

“We’ve built our relationships, and we’ve also redefined ourselves to take compliance to government regulatory policies as non-negotiable,” he told Arise TV as monitored by the The Nation newspaper.

“Beyond that, we’ve taken a position of leaning into government policies. So, I can’t actually tell you we have challenges with our regulators now; on the contrary, I think we have a very strong relationship. We have taken a policy of zero tolerance when it comes to compliance issue and leaning into government policies and supporting government policies,” he added while enumerating on plans to commemorate its 20 years of operating in Nigeria.

MTN Nigeria is part of the MTN Group headquartered in South Africa. With about 73,571,192 subscribers as at June 2021, MTN accounts for 39.28% of the market share in Nigeria where it has its biggest operation in about 22 countries across Africa and the Middle East. The quoted company recently announced a service revenue of N790.3 billion, an increase of 24.1 per cent for the first half of the year, ended June 30, 2021.

In Johannesburg, the Group announced “a strong and resilient operational and financial performance in the first quarter of 2021, with growth in service revenue exceeding medium-term guidance, driven by gains in data and fintech revenue.”

MTN has its eyes on a rapid 5G launch in Nigeria once authorities give the nod.

According to Toriola, “in terms of coverage, we are currently at approximately 65 per cent of the population that is covered by 4G LTE services, approximately 82 per cent, 83 per cent covered by 3G services and 2G services somewhere closing in on 90 per cent now.”

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