MTN Group Limited, formerly M-Cell, the South Africa-based multinational mobile telecommunications company, operating in many African, European and Asian countries, is not new to controversies.But MTN's love for high-risk emerging markets like Nigeria is biting it big time.
The telco has been caught in web of claims, charges, fines and all manners of harassment by all tiers of governments and agencies in Nigeria.To some, MTN maybe the architect of their many misfortunes in Nigeria by refusing to do business the Nigerian way.
Others, however, expressed concerns over the harassment and threats to its operations from many quarters in the country.Only recently, MTN Nigeria kicked against the arbitrary shutdown of its base transmitting facilities by the Kogi State Internal Revenue Service (KGIRS), over allegations that it has not met its tax obligations to the government.
According to Tobechukwu Okigbo, MTN's Corporate Relations Executive, "To the best of our knowledge, the Minister of Finance's recommendation as provided in the Act is yet to be issued, and as such, it is unclear if the imposition of the fee by the Kogi State Government is on solid legal footing.
But Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), advised MTN to first pay the disputed N50 million taxes to resolve the current impasse between it and Kogi Government.Mr Gbengba Adebayo, chairman of ALTON, said that it was necessary for MTN to pay the Social Services Contribution Levy (SSCL) to the state revenue agency first and seek legal redress in court afterwards.
Experts worry that continued threats to MTN operations, may have adverse security and economic, impact on the country because of their classification as Critical National Infrastructure (CNI).Such ignorance of the critical nature of telecommunications facilities led Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), to violence and the needless destruction of MTN property last year when it picketed it.
Also the recent dispute with Nigerian authorities over $10bn in repatriated funds and back taxes is too much distraction to business.Though the matter has been resolved; to Nigeria, such costly claims raise questions about investment security in the country.
There have been also sporadic fines from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for various alleged offences including the huge N330 billion fine imposed on it due to its inability to disconnect improperly registered SIM cards.Though MTN appears recalcitrant and eager to stay in Nigeria, the telco's future may be tied how much Nigeria values her operations.