MTN to Close Facilities in Ondo State

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Phuthuma Nhleko

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MTN Nigeria is threatening to close its facilities in Ondo State over government interference. The telecom giant said it can’t carry out maintenance and routine services on its network facilities in the state which will invariably lead to poor or total loss of network coverage on all Automated Teller Machines, Point of Sale, PoS, terminals and mobile phones connected to its networks in the state and its environs.

This is consequent the confiscation of the operator’s transmission hubs by the state government. Users of mobile phone with MTN Nigeria network won’t have access to voice traffic across other operators, data services and international traffic anytime from now.

There will be poor or total loss of network coverage for all MTN subscribers in Ondo as the sealing of facilities means that service providers will not be able to carry out routine maintenance work or refuel the generators servicing the base transceiver stations, BTS’.

In addition, a major hub site for both fibre and microwave transmission which connects the North, South and East will be affected leading to loss of services in the whole of Ekiti State as well as parts of Edo and Niger States. The officials of the Ondo State government had on December 23, 2015 sealed MTN’s BTS’ and other facilities in the state.

The closure followed an Ex-Parte court Order taken against MTN regarding a tax claim of N458,585,783.12 allegedly owed the Ondo State Board of Internal Revenue Service (OSBIRS) in Pay As You Earn, PAYE,; Withholding Tax, WHT,; Development levy, Business Premises and Education Endowment taxes.

Amina Oyagbola, MTN executive, was quoted in a press statement by Funso Aina, PR and protocol manager in Corporate Services Division of MTN Nigeria, as saying that MTN has fulfilled all its statutory obligations with respect to PAYE, Withholding Tax and Development levy, amongst others, contrary to OSBIRS’ claim.

Oyagbola added that MTN has also provided all the relevant assistance through direct engagement, meetings and production of documentation (including 3rd party contracts) which were availed to the Internal Revenue Board and its consultants. It would appear that the Board is seeking to impute liability of 3rd party contractors on MTN based on its “best judgment” assessment and MTN has clarified that it is not liable for 3rd party service providers who are corporate legal entities.

She confirmed that in the course of the visitation of the government officials, facilities including franchise stores owned by 3rd parties were also sealed pursuant to an ex-parte court order dated December 7, 2015, which was enforced on December 23, 2015.

She stated that following the action in court instituted by the State government, MTN was duty bound to file relevant processes in addition to instituting an action at the Tax Appeal Tribunal. She, however, refrained from commenting on the matter as, according to her, “In view of the pendency of the matter before the courts, I am unable to comment on same. We are however particularly concerned about the impact on our customers, the good people of Ondo State and other States, who will not be able to enjoy good services on both their voice calls and data as a result of this action.”

She made a special appeal to the relevant authorities to enable and support telecoms companies to ‎operate and render good services to customers.

— Feb 15, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT

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