In Nigeria, mobile network operators prefer to pay fines rather than comply with laid down rules by the industry regulator. This was made know by the NCC (Nigerian Communications Commission) vice chairman Dr. Eugene Juwah at a forum organised to take public complaints on SIM replacement and enforcement guidelines. To tackle this, he said that there will be heavier punishments for operators who violated the guidelines. All major telecom providers in Nigeria have continually declared profit with the most significant coming from MTN. The Nigerian telecom market is set to generate $10.9b by 2019 while another report put the Nigerian telecom industry to be valued at over $25b with Etisalat (the smallest of them in terms of subscribers in Nigeria) alone declaring revenue of $6b last May. With profits up, many companies can afford to pay simple fines and get away with practises that violate laid down rules.
So what’s the NCC really going to do about this?
There have been reports in certain quarters that the NCC has not been very effective in its regulatory duties but the Vice Chairman of the Commission says fines will be doubled to 10m Naira/$50k. He acknowledged that past fines were little and could easily be paid by operators but again, I believe we should go beyond just financial fines and have other forms of punishment in order to maintain the confidence of investors in this sector. The most important thing is to maintain a level playing ground for all players.
He also revealed that there are now over 146 million active phone subscribers in Nigeria.
You can see a distribution of subscribers across Telcos in Nigeria below.