The Federal Government on Tuesday gave conditions for an out-of-court settlement with MTN Nigeria in respect of the N780bn fine imposed on the company by the Nigerian Communications Commission for having 5.2 million unregistered subscribers on its network.
At the resumed hearing of the suit it filed to challenge the fine, MTN’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), had pleaded with the presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, to give the parties 60 days to explore the option of settlement out of court.
Answering questions from journalists at the unveiling of the Communications Sector Roadmap for 2016 to 2019 in Abuja, the Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, ruled out the possibility of such a settlement until MTN had withdrawn the court case it instituted against the Federal Government and the NCC.
Confirming that MTN had made some moves for settlement after approaching the court for adjudication, Shittu said such moves were not acceptable until the case had been withdrawn from the court.
Another condition for an out-of-court settlement with the multinational telecoms operator, according to the minister, is the approval of a possible new deal by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The minister said, “The case is in court. It was MTN who took the government to court because they wanted to, perhaps, buy time or whatever. I don’t want to cast any aspersion. I am aware also that after going to court, they have made certain moves but you know that in matters like this, sensitive issues are involved.
“As far as we are concerned, there can be no out-of-court settlement except the case is withdrawn from the court so that the government will not be put under pressure. If the case is out of court and if they make further moves, Mr. President may graciously make a decision. But now, I am not aware of any out-of-court settlement talks.”
The minister also confirmed that the Federal Government had opened talks for the purchase of two new communications satellites to serve as backups for the Nigerian communications satellite also known as NigComSat-1R that was put in the orbit in 2011.
Shittu also directed all Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government to repatriate all government data being hosted abroad to local data centres.
The minister, who gave the directive at the First Annual Data Summit hosted by the Office for Nigerian Content Development in ICTs in Abuja, said the Federal Government was committed to implementing the local content guidelines issued by the National Information Technology Development Agency in 2013.
He said it was necessary to host all government data locally for security purposes and for job creation, adding that the contribution of the communications sector to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product had risen to 11 per cent by September 2015