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Telcos to pay N120.4m fines over sim deactivation

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Four telecoms operators have been fined N120.4 million by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) for flouting a directive to deactivate unregistered Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards.

It was gathered on Monday that the operators, MTN, Glo, Airtel and Etisalat, were sanctioned for failing to fully comply with the directive to revalidate over 37 million pre-registered and improperly- registered SIM cards on their networks.

MTN Nigeria incurred the lion’s share of the collective sanction, as the regulator asked it to pay N102.2 million as fine, representing 84.8 per cent of the total sanction.

MTN is the largest telecoms company in the country with over 43 per cent market share. It currently has over 62 million subscribers on its network. The South African telecoms company was followed by Globacom, which was fined N7.4 million.

Etisalat and Airtel were also asked to cough up N7 million and N3.8 million respectively.

According to sources, the operators were informed of their ‘sins’ in separate letters addressed specifically to them between August 26 and 28.

The letters were signed by the Head, Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement, Mr. Efosa Idehen and the Head, Legal and Regulatory Services, Mrs. Yetunde Akinloye, on behalf of NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta.

The letters noted that after asking them to deactivate the unregistered SIMs between August 4 and 11, subsequent monitoring exercise revealed that they had not yet complied with the instruction.

In the letter addressed to MTN, NCC said in continuation of its monitoring exercise, it placed voice calls to 402 MTN subscribers from among the list of numbers submitted to the telecommunications company for deactivation to determine the level of compliance.

“The numbers called are those whose registration was incomplete or invalid as regards facial capture and the responses from those affected MTN subscribers was that MTN has neither, through text messages nor any other means, invited them to come forward to validate and update their registration,” the letter stated.

The regulator said the failure to deactivate the incomplete and improperly registered MTN subscribers contravened Regulation 19 and 20 of the Telephone Subscribers Registration Regulation 2011, which attracts a fine of N200, 000 per subscription medium.

The telecoms regulator said in accordance with Regulations 19 (1) and (2) and 20 (1) of the Telephone Subscribers Registration Regulation 2011, “MTN will pay to the commission the total sum of N80.4 million being fine for the contravention.”

It added that the amount should be paid on or before September 9, failure of which shall, in accordance with Paragraph 2, Part B, Second Schedule of the Nigerian Communications (Enforcement Processes etc.) Regulations 2005, attract N100, 000 per day for as long as it remains unpaid.

The second letter also asked MTN to pay another N21.8 million for the discovery of 109 additional pre-registered SIM cards purchased and found to be active on the network.

Also, in the letters addressed to other mobile network operators (MNOs), Globacom, Etisalat and Airtel, NCC recalled that at an industry engagement session of June 11, the commission had directed the MNOs, through its letters dated July 8 and August 4, to mop up all pre-registered SIM cards from the market.

The regulator said after the directive expired on August 11, it commenced monitoring of all MNOs to ensure compliance with the instruction.

According to the NCC, despite all warnings and pleadings to the operators, it found 37 pre-registered SIM cards still active on Globacom’s network, resulting in a N7.4 million fine for the indigenous telecoms company.

The same pattern of letter was addressed to Etisalat and Airtel, on whose networks 35 and 19 pre-registered SIM cards were found respectively.

Consequently, Etisalat has been mandated to pay N7 million as fine and Airtel N3.8 million. NCC, however, warned that while it would continue to monitor and apply appropriate sanctions on the MNOs for all such preregistered SIM cards purchased by the commission, operators risk additional N100, 000 fine per day for as long as the fines remain unpaid.

The telecoms operators’ reluctance to fully comply with the directive could result in heavy sanctions from the regulator.

The commission had asked the operators to deactivate over 37 million SIM cards from their networks because of improper registrations and after having discovered that about 45 per cent of registered SIM cards on their networks were invalid. As such, NCC had sent 18.6 million numbers to MTN for revalidation, 7.4 million to Airtel, 2.33 million to Glo and 19.46 million to Etisalat.

“However, our monitoring showed that MTN had only removed just 1.6 million and put them on ‘receive only’ mode. Airtel had only removed 2.3 million SIMs, Globacom also removed only 3.5 million from the network, but it was also partially done. Etisalat barred only 3.3 million SIMs also.

“The current sluggish stance of the operators to follow the directive could make the operators secure regulatory wrath, as their action is tantamount to be against the interest of the nation in the government’s efforts at enhancing the safety of the citizens,” Idehen had said in an August 11 interview in Lagos. With over N31.1 billion said to have been spent so far on the SIM registration by the operators (N25 billion), stakeholders have continued to wonder why the exercise continue to face irregularities.

The renewed move by the NCC to enthrone sanity in the SIM registration database was consequent upon a meeting between Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Department of State Services (DSS), the network operators and the NCC, last month. Participants at the meeting took into cognizance crimes committed against members of the public either by kidnappers, terrorists, robbers and threats to lives, using unregistered SIM cards.

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BUSINESS

Netflix lays off 150 employees due to slow revenue growth and business needs

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Netflix is reportedly laying off nearly 150 employees in the coming days due to disappointing earnings and slow revenue growth.

According to a Variety report, the Amazon Prime Video rival might also terminate its contract with contractual contributors.

The layoffs are about 2 per cent of Netflix’s US workforce. “As we explained [in reporting Q1] earnings, our slowing revenue growth means we are also having to slow our cost growth as a company. So sadly, we are letting around 150 employees go today, mostly U.S.-based,” a Netflix spokesperson said.

The statement further revealed that the decision was primarily driven by business needs rather than individual performance. Netflix reported $7.87 billion in Q1, which was short of Wall Street’s estimates of $7.93 billion.

The report further reveals that nearly 70 part-time employees in Netflix’s animation studio will have to pack up and leave. A report by The Verge stated that about 26 contractors working on Netflix’s fan-focused Tudum website might see a termination.

“A number of agency contractors have also been impacted by the news announced this morning. We are grateful for their contributions to Netflix,” the company said.

Netflix, in its recent earnings call, revealed that it lost thousands of subscribers, which is a first for the company in over a decade.

The company expects to lose an additional 2 million in the next quarter due to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. Netflix has shut shop in Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Dollar breaks N600/$ ceiling ahead of party’s presidential primaries

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Less than two weeks to the presidential primaries of the political parties ahead of the 2023 elections, the US dollar has broken the N600/$ mark at the parallel market and set the tone for a possible uptick in the coming days.

The black market rate had traded between N570/$ and N590/$ since the beginning of the year while the Central bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s intervention at the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange (NAFEX) has kept its rate under N420/$.

With the latest slump of the naira, the arbitrage between the parallel and NAFEX, which is regarded as the official window, is now inching close to N200/$. The spread measures the deviation of the controlled official rate from the real rate of exchange, with experts calling for liberalisation of the market to enable naira to find its true value.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have also warned of the repercussions of sustaining an artificially high naira while calling on the CBN to embark on market reform.

But the CBN has maintained that Nigeria, with the current high level of importation and underperformance of the industrial sector, cannot afford to float the naira completely as the exchange rate could spill out of control.

At the Lagos street market, yesterday, naira traded between N595/$ and N600/$ band. With the presidential primaries of the two leading political parties scheduled for Abuja next weekend, there is an expectation the demand pressure has not peaked, suggesting that naira is in for a protracted pressure.

At peer-to-peer (P2P) trading platforms, the dollar has been trading above N600 in the past three weeks, which had signaled that the black market rate could break through the psychological ceiling.

With that eventually happening, naira could be on a renewed free fall.

But there is also hope that it is a season to offload warehoused hard currencies for political campaigns to possibly shore up supply.

Experts are not sure where rising demand and supply of foreign exchange would lead the naira to, but the interplay between the movements of the two variables is a key factor in predicting the value of the naira in the tense political season. Godwin Owoh, a professor of applied economics, advised Nigerians to prepare for a steeper fall of the local currency, saying partisan politics and intra-party meetings, which are highly dollarised would bring much pressure to bear.

The CBN has promised to continue to protect the naira but its ability could be constrained by the equally falling reserve. For the first time in eight months, the gross reserves dropped below N39 billion on Monday, when CBN data put the figures at N38.92 billion. Effectively, the country’s reserves have depleted by $160 billion year-to-date.

Bismarck Rewane, an economist, had projected the reserve to collapse to $32 billion in the year as he expected the CBN to spend $8 to $10 billion defending the naira, which is taking much pressure from excessive importation.

The value of Nigeria’s imports increased by 64 per cent last year to N20.84 trillion. Sadly, the value of exports increased at a slower rate – 51 per cent – to N18. 91 trillion in the same period. The falling reserves and rising imports have put the apex bank in dire straits in its efforts to continue to defend the naira.

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Stock market sets new milestone as investors gain over N5tr in four months

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Amid uncertainties in the global economy and rising insecurity in the country, the nation’s stock market continued its bullish run, giving hope to patient investors who endured long periods of downturn on the Nigerian Exchange Limited (NGX).

After getting to a rock-bottom low for several years, the equities market have recorded an unprecedented upbeat rally since the beginning of the year to emerge the best performing market in Africa and third in the world.

The NGX’s All Share Index (ASI), an indicator used to track the general market movement of all listed equities on NGX, crossed 53,000 mark to hit a 14-year high for the first time since 2008, as indices soared significantly by N5.4 trillion from the beginning of the year.

Specifically, market capitalisation opened the year at 43,026.23 to close on Friday, May 13, at 53,098.46 points for the first time since 2008, representing 19 per cent appreciation, while trading for the year opened on January 4 with N23,187 trillion to close on Friday at N28,625 trillion, representing N5,438 trillion increase.

The Chief Executive Officer, Wyoming Capital and Partners, Tajudeen Olayinka, hinged the upswing trend on improved system liquidity that is traceable to massive reinvestment of 2021 yearly dividends by investors, who received their payments recently from listed companies.

According to him, the fact that dividends are now paid electronically means that institutional investors who do not have immediate need for cash can reasonably deploy such dividends to more profitable stocks given the low and attractive

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