Failure to pay the N1.17 billion penalties could mean an operations shut down for GSM companies, reports have said.
The Nigerian Communications Commission is reportedly seeking a court order to shut down the administrative offices of the affected network operations – MTN, Globacom, Etisalat and Airtel – if they successful secure a court order.
In early May, the regulatory body slapped fines on the four major cell service providers for rendering dismal service to subscribers.
NCC penalized both Etisalat and MTN to the tune of N360 million, Airtel received a N270 million fine and Globacom, N180 million.
They were given a May 25 deadline by which to pay the fines or suffer more penalties.
A source within the NCC told Punch newspapers that the Commission would get the court order and shut down the administrative offices of the operators who are yet to pay their penalties, two weeks past the deadline.
The NCC Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo, declined to confirm or deny the information gleaned from sources, but said the “NCC is weighing all the options that are available to it as a regulator”.
He went on to add that as a “lawful organization” the NCC will always take the side of the law in any action.
However, the cell phone service providers say shutting down administrative offices could be mean even worse things for millions of subscribers in Nigeria who depend on the telecoms giants for communication, the Punch reported.
A source within one of the affected carriers asks, “if NCC shuts down our offices in Abuja, who will direct the field offices maintaining our base stations?”
“And if the diesel runs out of the generators serving the base stations engines, who will refill them?,” he asked again.
“The base stations will go down and it will affect the over 99 million subscribers, ” he said.
He said the plan will not only be disruptive to subscribers, but also to the industry.
Unfriendly operating atmosphere
The carriers have long maintained that they find it difficult to provide quality service in Nigeria, due to the unfriendly operating atmosphere.
South Africa-based MTN, following initial news of the penalties early May, said inadequate power supply, insecurity and multiple regulation and taxation makes it harder for the telecomms company to provide excellent service.
MTN’s Corporate Services Executive, Mr. Akinwale Goodluck, in an interview with Vanguard at the had said “MTN suffers more than seventy cuts to its fibre on a monthly basis. Indeed , in April this year, MTN had cause to publish full page announcement in the newspapers, alerting the public to the growing incidence of criminal damage to MTN’s infrastructure in various parts of the country and the impact on quality of service.”
Abu-Dhabi based Etisalat also listed similar complaints at the time. They said the capacity constraints alone were not to blame for poor service, but also pointed to bad road networks, sabotage and epileptic electricity supply as some of the challenges Etisalat faces.
“Foremost among these is the absence of reliable power which necessitates that every one of our over 3,000 cell sites needs to be served by two generators which run 24 hours a day and need regular maintenance and provision of weekly supplies of diesel,” Chief Executive, Steven Evans said.
Speaking on the matter, the President, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, warned agains shutting down the carriers’ administrative offices, saying it would destabilize the country’s communication.
“Stakeholders are meeting and there has been progress. Parties have exhibited good faith in the matter. However, considering what we have gone through in the past week, I do not expect anyone to take any step that will affect the stability of the industry, not the NCC, not the operators and not even our association. However, if it happens, we will make our position known to the public,” he said.