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When Will Enough be Enough for MTN Nigeria? — By Olayiwola Luqman, FCA

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The history of MTN Nigeria Communications Plc (MTN Nigeria) is replete with controversies and litigation unlike other players in the telecom sector. Some might argue MTN’s size naturally attracts its issues. This would, however, be too easy a way out of truly analyzing its issues.

MTN

Others would argue upon review, that it is more about its attitude to Nigeria and Nigerians, in other words, the Big Man syndrome, that is the catalyst for its issues. Since inception, MTN has hobbled from issue to issue. It has won some, lost others and settled some.

The company seems to relish in courting what many refer to as ‘needless controversies’, the outcome of which is the toga of arrogance that it adorns in seeking positions only beneficial to itself and seemingly disregarding government and regulatory positions, the impact of its actions on Nigeria and Nigerians as well as other non-altruistic positions.

One may strive to seek to understand a start-up company’s choice of courting controversies as a means of creating awareness and corporate presence but for a company like MTN Nigeria that is about to celebrate its silver jubilee, one would have thought that it should be weary of unnecessary controversies. This is, however, not the story of MTN Nigeria, unfortunately.

Currently, the company is in a court battle instituted against it, its business partner, ATC Nigeria Wireless Infrastructure Limited (ATC Nigeria), and three other bodies, by the Incorporated Trustees of HEDA Resources Centre (HEDA) over the construction of 2,500 base trans-receiver stations across Nigeria for MTN’s operations. HEDA a civil society group, has gone to court to stop MTN Nigeria and ATC Nigeria from siting new base stations where there are already existing base stations citing health and environmental concerns. The case with suit No: FHC/L/CS/2359/2023, was filed in the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, on 20 November 2023 and is still pending before the court.

In October 2015, MTN Nigeria’s arrogance and disregard of the country’s laws got it enmeshed in a regulatory quagmire resulting to a fine of N1.04 trillion (about $5.2 billion) against it, for the failure to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered subscribers from its network. Its imprudence did not end there but extended to the point where it was alleged to have bribed a senior government official so the fine could be reduced.

In yet another instance, MTN Nigeria shunned Nigerians’ calls for the adoption of per-second billing as its sister subsidiaries in other climes deployed and kept insisting, for many years, that such deployment was impracticable in Nigeria. The fleecing of Nigerians by MTN Nigeria continued until Glo Mobile debunked MTN Nigeria’s denials in 2003 and debuted with per-second billing. Even when the industry regulator, NCC insisted that it deploy per-second billing, MTN Nigeria was reluctant in its compliance and went so far as to illegally charge subscribers who wanted to migrate to that platform the sum of N100 each.

A look at MTN Nigeria’s over two-decade operations in Nigeria also reveals a series of corporate governance issues, including tax defaults, illegal repatriations of profits and other corporate vices. In 2018, the Federal Government, following a ten-year “revenue assets investigation” conducted between 2007 and 2017, accused MTN Nigeria of having some liabilities which included alleged unpaid/underpaid import duties of about N242.25 billion as well as withholding and value-added taxes of about $1.3 billion. Last year, a tax appeal tribunal sitting in Lagos ordered MTN Nigeria to pay $72,551,059 in tax default to the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS).

What beats most people’s imaginations is that while other subsidiaries in the MTN Group operating in other markets have had issues (Iran and Afghanistan come to mind with the very serious allegations against them), they largely seem to be responsible corporate citizens in their countries of operation. MTN Nigeria, on the other hand, tends to be roguish and more hawkish in its operations. Its services are poor, yet they appear the most expensive in Nigeria.

These issues could only be as a result of arrogance believing that, by appointing eminent Nigerians who have headed regulatory bodies with oversight over its activities to the Board of Directors of the company, it would always be able to bulldoze its path by way of influence peddling through any regulatory issue. It is worthy of note that some notable civil society groups in the country have petitioned the relevant regulatory agencies to investigate these Board appointments, citing corporate governance as well as conflict of interest issues.

The company needs to reevaluate its operations in the country with a view to respecting the law and regulatory authorities as well as having more regard for Nigerians, whose patronage earns it the position of the largest revenue earner in the MTN Group. Nigerians deserve a better deal with MTN Nigeria and the Nigerian government is supposed to stand up and ensure that this happens by insisting on good corporate governance, without being swayed or intimidated by the company or the people that sit on its board.

– Olayiwola Luqman, FCA. Business analyst, writes from Lagos*


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Ugo Onwuaso is an ICT enthusiast. He believes technology should be used for general good. He holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the Lagos state University. Dear Reader, Your support matters. But we believe that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. That is why, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and finance and how they affect lives. Our incisive and analytical view of how technology news affects the daily life help individuals and organizations make up their minds. Quality journalism costs money. Today, we're asking that you support us to do more. Kindly support our effort to deliver technology and finance journalism to everyone in the world. Donate as little as N1,000. Bank transfers can be made to: UBA Plc 1017156876 Communication Week Media Ltd

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Layer3 Implements World-Class Upgrade for WACREN Cloud Infrastructure

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Layer3 has announced the successful implementation of a state-of-the-art private cloud infrastructure for the West and Central African Research and Education Network (WACREN). This pivotal project, hosted in Nigeria, is supported by the AfricaConnect3 project, co-funded by the European Commission.

Layer3 was selected for this prestigious project after an international bidding and tendering process. The newly established private cloud infrastructure will serve universities, research and education networks across the region, providing a robust, secure, and scalable platform designed to meet the unique needs of the academic and research community.

Key features of the cloud infrastructure include its high performance and scalability, engineered to handle large-scale data and computational needs, ensuring seamless scalability as demand increases. The platform also incorporates cutting-edge security protocols to ensure high-level data protection and integrity.

Other features in this state-of-the-art infrastructure include:

  • Reliability and Redundancy: Equipped with multiple layers of redundancy and failover mechanisms to guarantee high availability and minimal downtime.
  • Customizable Solutions: Offers tailored services adaptable to specific institutional requirements, supporting a diverse range of academic and research activities.
  • Ease of Integration: Facilitates seamless integration with existing IT environments and other cloud services, enhancing operational efficiency.

This world-class private cloud infrastructure is a significant milestone for the educational and research sector in West and Central Africa. By providing a dedicated and sophisticated cloud environment, the project will:

  • enhance research capabilities as researchers and educators will have access to powerful computational resources and collaborative tools, to facilitate groundbreaking research and innovation that will ultimately lead to development in the region
  • improve educational outcomes as universities can leverage the cloud platform to offer more dynamic and interactive learning experiences.
  • boost regional collaboration: The cloud infrastructure will enable regional research collaboration as researchers in different institutions in different countries can work on joint research projects and educational programs.
  • drive digital transformation: By adopting cutting-edge cloud technology, institutions can accelerate their digital transformation journeys and stay competitive in the global education landscape.

“We are honored to have been selected by WACREN and the AfricaConnect3 project for this transformative initiative. Our team is excited to have delivered this world-class cloud infrastructure that will empower the educational and research community in West and Central Africa, driving innovation and excellence. This project underscores our commitment to providing top-tier IT solutions that support academic and research excellence.” said Layer3 CEO, Oyaje Idoko.

According to WACREN CEO, Dr. Boubakar Barry, “This WACREN Cloud upgrade marks a significant step forward for us as it will enhance our capacity to serve national research and education networks (NRENs) and their communities across our region.

“We will leverage the capabilities of this new cluster to drive our suite of community-driven platforms and services.  We look forward to the tremendous impact the expanded infrastructure will have on fostering research and innovation excellence across West and Central Africa.”

For more information about Layer3 and its services, please visit www.layer3.ng.

Layer3 is a leading IT and cloud solutions provider in Nigeria, specialized in delivering innovative technology solutions that drive business growth and efficiency. With a focus on quality and customer satisfaction, Layer3 offers a comprehensive range of services, including cloud computing, cybersecurity, AI-driven network solutions, and managed services.


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NITDA, FCT-UBEB, Collaborate To Foster Digital Literacy In Schools

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In a significant development in Nigeria’s educational sector aimed at boosting digital literacy among school children, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), is set to collaborate with the Federal Capital Territory Universal Basic Educational Board (FCT-UBEB) towards revolutionising the way young Nigerians engage with technology and equipping them with necessary skills to thrive in an increasingly digital world.

NITDA

The forgoing information is contained in a press statement e-signed by the Head of Corporate Affairs and External Relations at NITDA, Hajia Hadiza Umar.

As per the statement, the Director-General of NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi , made this known when he hosted a delegation from the Head-to-Head Debate Committee of FCT UBEB led by its Ag. Executive Chairman, Dr Alhassan Sule, at the Agency’s corporate headquarters in Abuja to discuss possible areas of collaboration.

Mallam Abdullahi , who was represented by the agency’s Director of the Information Technology Infrastructure Solutions (ITIS) department, Oladejo Olawumi, stated that the collaboration aligned with a pillar of NITDA’s Strategic Roadmap and Action Plan (SRAP 2.0) 2024-2027 which was to Foster Digital Literacy and Cultivate Talents.

While stating that the pillar was key to the proposed educational board’s debate competition, the NITDA DG emphasised the importance of integrating technology into education to capture the interest and potential of young people.

“Children today, often referred to as digital natives, intuitively use technology and unlike us, who are digital migrants, these children seamlessly adapt to new gadgets and platforms. Therefore, it is essential to embed digital knowledge in their learning environment,” he noted.

Abdullahi disclosed that the agency had been providing infrastructure and resources to facilitate educational transformation as well as digital learning centres across all states of the country.

He added that the Digital Literacy for All programme was a national initiative of the agency which was designed to extend digital education resources to all corners of the country and urged the visitors to key into the programme while he asserted that it would be instrumental in enhancing digital literacy skills among students and out-of-school children alike.

Highlighting the agency’s focus on emerging technologies, Abdullahi stated that extensive research and development were being conducted in areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics which were pivotal for future skill sets.

While referring to a recent collaboration between the agency and the Abuja Enterprise Agency on a Robotics competition organised for secondary schools in Abuja to spur interest in Robotics and technology among students, he said “I think we can work together in this area and make sure that Robotics interest is geared up among the youth.”

Elaborating on the Agency’s ongoing initiatives toward achieving 70 per cent digital literacy in the country by 2027, he further disclosed that the agency was working to integrate digital literacy into the national educational curriculum and providing hands-on experience with technologies like AI and Robotics.

While stressing the importance of addressing the needs of out-of-school children, he mentioned “We are developing programmes in partnership with various stakeholders to attract these children through incentives like school feeding, coupled with digital literacy and other educational training.”

Abdullahi noted that the multifaceted approach would ensure that children were not only fed but also equipped with essential digital skills that would pave the way for a more inclusive and technologically proficient future.

In his earlier remark, Dr Sule commended the agency for their various strategic initiatives to ensure a sustainable digitally transformed economy in the country.

While stating that the head-to-head committee was saddled with the responsibility of conducting the FCT Basic Schools debate competition, he noted that 900 students in the FCT would contest in a debate.

Sule said that finalists from the competition would be moved to a reality house which will be aired live on different media platforms where they would be trained on AI and Robotics.


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Group Seeks Restructuring of N15Bn USPF

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Association of Telecommunications, Information Technology, Cable Satellite Network Operators and Allied Services Employers of Nigeria (ATICEN) has again called on Dr. Bosun Tijani, minister of Communications, Information and Digital Economy,  and Aminu Maida, executive vicecChairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to make the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) work for the purpose it was created and be more accountable about the rural telephony projects.

Dr. Bosun Tijani, minister of Communications, Information and Digital Economy

According to the Association, the Fund should be restructured or scrapped if it continues to fail to achieve the purpose for which it was created. It noted that despite the Fund, the digital gap was still wider in the rural areas.

In December last year, the USPF committee led by the Minister unveiled a project on rural telephony powered by solar – one of the many initiatives that USPF aimed at expanding the communication network to rural areas across the country.

It would be recalled that stakeholders in the telecoms industry had called for the investigation of the Fund allegedly misappropriated. The USPF was established in 2003 with an initial N15 billion to promote the widespread availability and usage of network and application services throughout Nigeria.

The NCC charges telecom operators 2.5 per cent of their turn-over as licensing fees, of which 40 per cent of the licensing fees is transferred to the designated fund called USPF.

However, despite the Fund, a wider digital divide still exists in the rural areas as many rural communities in the country are yet to be adequately connected to the country’s telecommunication system.

This lapse has been attributed to the misappropriation of funds partly budgeted for that project by some officials who held sway in the sector in the recent past. Sensing the mismanagement of the fund, some players in the sector called on the Presidency and the National Assembly to investigate the utilisation of the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) earmarked to bridge the infrastructure gap in the rural area.

They made the call following the non-impact of the Fund established by the Federal Government to facilitate the achievement of national policy goals for universal access and universal service to information and communication technologies (ICTs) in rural, unserved, and underserved areas in Nigeria.

The Fund is being managed to facilitate the widest possible access to affordable telecommunications services for greater social equity and inclusion for the people of Nigeria.

It would be recalled that a sum of N15.174 billion was recommended for approval as the Universal Service Provision Fund’s 2019 budget. Since it was established, the industry players said it had never had any impact on the telecoms industry, claiming that the fund had not been used for the purpose it was established.


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