NIGERIA’S communications and digital economy minister Dr Isa Pantami has warned chief executives of telecommunications companies that he will only tolerate what he terms constructive criticisms from them.
Like many other developing countries, Nigeria is seeking to expand her digital presence with the growth of the Internet, a greater availability of Broadband and the continued expansion of mobile phone use. As far back as 2017, Nigeria had 150m mobile phone subscribers and the number of its internet users reached 97.2m, with penetration rates of 81% and 53%, respectively, according to a Jumia, the country’s largest online retailer.
At the time, Africa as a whole had 960m mobile subscribers and 216m internet users at penetration rates of 80% and 18%, respectively. This made Nigeria a very attractive market for communication companies but of late, several of them have had running battles with the government, leading to some high profile court cases.
Speaking at a reception organised for him by the Association of Telecommunications Company of Nigeria in Abuja, Dr Pantami said: “I will welcome constructive criticism but if it is not constructive then it is propaganda and I will not be intimidated. I encourage you to engage in constructive criticism and if you come up with facts and figures, you will humble me but propaganda will only make me to continue to do what I am doing.”
In 2015, South African telecommunication giant the MTN Group, was handed a $5.2bn fine by the Nigerian Communications Commission for not meeting the deadline set up by the mobile network operators for disconnecting subscribers identification modules with improper registration. After series of negotiations, the fine was reduced to $1.5bn and the company has now paid off the bulk of it.
Last December, MTN agreed to pay a separate $53m fine after being accused of illegally repatriating $8.13bn to South Africa. These high profile case have been used by communications companies to question the viability of Nigeria as an investment destination, despite the fact that returns on investment are very high there.