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The last thing MTN Nigeria needs right now

The last thing MTN Nigeria needs right now

A group of farmers in Nigeria has claimed there are a few unregistered SIM cards, yet to be deactivated by MTN Nigeria, that are assisting Boko Haram in perpetrating acts of violence.

The telco has acknowledged the concern but says the issue is not unique to its brand.

Corporate Relations Executive, Tobechukwu Okigbo, maintains that MTN registers all SIM cards before their activation. This, he states, dates back to 2011 when the registration process was introduced by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Okigbo also points that there are instances where "previously purchased and properly registered SIMs (pre-registered SIMs) are subsequently sold on to others..."

He adds that this process "is a critical security risk which the industry, led by the NCC has identified and is working assiduously to resolve."

He states: "Criminals also take advantage of these pre-registered SIMs and otherwise attempt to circumvent the process.... As extensively reported, the NCC has introduced several processes designed to address this. However, more needs to be done."

As Africa's biggest wireless operator by sales, MTN is Nigeria's largest telco. In 2016 the NCC imposed a fine of over US$1 billion and cited MTN's delay in disconnecting about five million unregistered subscribers. The telco was also recently cleared of illegally repatriating US$14 billion from Nigeria.

The dust is now settling on these matters for MTN to reassert his market position. Though the telco lost subscribers in Nigeria by Q3, it still made profit from those who remained. Its Nigerian subscribers fell by 5.2% to 50.3 million, but total revenue increased by 11.2%.

As part of the $1billion fine settlement, MTN agreed to an initial public offering (IPO) of its Nigerian business. The telco is now working to complete the process in the next six months according to CEO, Rob Shuter.

MTN has also been identified as a top bidder for the acquisition of Nigeria's fourth largest network operator, 9mobile.

Reports have it that 16 firms have submitted expressions of interest (EoIs) to Barclays to bid for the telco formerly known as Etisalat Nigeria Limited. 9mobile defaulted on a US$1.2 billion syndicated loan from a group of 13 banks which forced its former owner to relinquish its stake in the firm and exit Nigeria. Other top bidders for the company are India's Bharti Airtel and ntel - formerly NITEL/ MTel.

Going by progress recorded, a new claim of non-deactivation of SIMs is the least the telco needs now.

Okigbo states that MTN put in place a number of controls and periodically undertake audits of processes and people including third-party agents. It seems the telco would have to work more with partners and relevant security agencies in its mitigation efforts.

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