It has emerged that the failure of MTN Nigeria to avail security operatives with the details of kidnappers who abducted Chief Olu Falae and contacted his family for ransom through the network was one of the reasons Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC) fined the telecommunication giant.

Recently N1.04 trillion fine was imposed on MTN by NCC over failure to deactivate unregistered SIM cards.

According to Reuters, the kidnappers of the prominent politician used MTN line to contact Falae’s family to demand ransom in September and the SIM Card like many others were not registered with MTN.

The Falae’s kidnap was said to be the final straw following MTN’s failure to adhere to the directives of NCC, which has been pushing industry players to verify the identity of their subscribers on worries that unregistered SIM cards were being used for criminal activities.

The fine is based on a $1,000 for each phone line MTN failed to cut off.
Quoting sources from both MTN and NCC, Reuters reported that in a meeting with the state security agency and all operators on August 4, the NCC had asked MTN to cut off between 10 and 18.6 million users but MTN told the regulator that it only had 5.2 million users whose identity could not be verified, an NCC source said.

“MTN was under the presumption that it can carry on business as usual because it was still in discussion with the regulators,” the source said.

MTN has said the fine related to the “timing of the disconnection” of subscribers and is expected to argue that it could not cut off any subscribers by the deadline date because it had been in talks with regulator.

By September, other operators, which include United Arab Emirates’ Etisalat and India’s Bharti Airtel, had fully verified their users and cut off those they could not verify their identity while MTN had made a “partial attempt”, the NCC said.

Then, on Oct. 22, four weeks after the abduction of Falae and about two months after the August deadline, the NCC, on advice from the state security agency, decided to impose the fine but only made it public four days later.

“These SIM cards with invalid registrations pose a grave security risk to the country,” the NCC memo said. “The recent kidnapping of the former finance minister Chief Olu Falae is one example of this risk.”

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