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MTN Withdraws Case Against NCC, Pays N50bn Fine

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MTN on Wednesday withdrew its lawsuit against the Nigerian Communications Commission over N1.04tn ($5.2bn) fine and paid N50bn ($250m) towards a probable settlement.

But the Federal Government said the next line of action would be determined after verifying the MTN’s payment claim.

The telecommunications company said its decision was based on renewed steps towards a negotiated settlement and to create a good atmosphere for further negotiations.

Speaking on the issue, the MTN Nigeria Chief Executive Officer, Ferdi Moolman, said, “This is a most encouraging development. It demonstrates a willingness and sincerity by both parties to work together towards a positive outcome.”

He said the company had paid N50bn to the Federal Government, “as a gesture of good faith and commitment to continued efforts towards an amicable resolution.”

This came about two weeks after the Minister of Communication, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, had told journalists that the Federal Government could consider reducing the fine a second time should MTN show its readiness for amicable settlement by paying a substantial amount of the fine.

“We shall also be open to talks with them (MTN) if it also withdraws its case from court because you cannot say you are seeking for negotiation with the government when you still have a case in court against it,” the minister had said.

According to Punch, a judge in Lagos had in January given both parties up until March 18 to reach a resolution, after MTN had asked the court to arbitrate in the dispute, saying the NCC had no legal grounds to order the fine.

Speaking to our correspondent, the Managing Director of Africa Analysis at MTN, Dobek Pater, said the firm’s withdrawal of the case with a “good faith payment” of $250m (N50bn) was based on renewed steps towards an amicable settlement and to create a conducive atmosphere for further negotiations.

“This is a sign that the fine could be reduced much further. There is some sort of negotiation taking place and the parties are migrating towards a common ground.”

MTN makes 37 per cent of its sales in Nigeria.

Moolman also said, “Our industry in Nigeria is an incredibly important example of the remarkable progress in the Information and Communications Technology sector, particularly as a much-needed catalyst for socio-economic growth and development at this time.”

But the Special Assistant to the Minister of Communications, Mr. Victor Oluwadamidare, said in Abuja on Wednesday that the government had to verify the claim that the company had paid some money.

He said, “Let me say that I am not competent to speak for the Federal Government. You know the people that can speak for the Federal Government and for the Presidency. I can only speak for the minister and for the Ministry of Communications.”

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Fund Raising

Lagos-Based Tech Startups Raised $750 million in 2022

Lagos now ranks 81 globally as one of the leading hubs for startups

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Tech Start-up operating in Lagos State has so far raised $750 million in 2022, the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Innovation and Technology, Tunbosun Alake stated on Thursday at the opening of the 4th Art of Lagos (AOT) Conference. 

While noting that the state has become the number one startup capital in Africa, Alake said Lagos now ranks 81 globally as one of the leading hubs for startups.

He added that Lagos is also number one in Africa in terms of the volume of deals that have been sealed from 2019 to date.

Also speaking at the conference, Lagos State Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat noted that Lagos State has been able to provide an enabling environment where startups and small businesses could thrive. 

Similarly, speaking further, Alake revealed that the increasing number of investors putting their money in Lagos state is a result of the conducive environment for investment and not because of the large population. 

“Investors are coming to Lagos because there have been many things we have been doing to encourage and to make sure the ecosystem is right for these investments. And Lagos is a place investor love to come to, not just because of the size of the market but also because of the potential of the returns on their investments,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Lagos State has disclosed that it has plans to enter into the venture market, thereby launching a venture fund of its own. Investors King learnt.

The special adviser noted that the soon-to-be-launched capital venture fund will “write bigger equity cheques for Nigerian startups than most privately-owned VC”.

“We are working to launch a Lagos venture fund of bigger ticket sizes,” Alake said. “Where normal VCs expect to cash in returns in 5 to 10 years, we are going to be able to do more time because we need more mission-critical products that would serve the citizens.” 

“The fund would be cross-sectoral including fintech, agriculture, health, and most importantly, “research and development startups,” he added. 

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Social Media

Meta, Facebook Set up Team to Monitor Fake News, Hate Speech Ahead of Nigeria’s 2023 Elections

Meta noted that the monitoring team will help to identify and flag fake news and hate speeches. 

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Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp disclosed it has constituted a team to monitor posts made by Nigerians ahead of the next year’s general elections.

Meta noted that the monitoring team will help to identify and flag fake news and hate speeches. 

Investors King understands that the next general election in Nigeria which comes up every four years has been scheduled to take place in February and March 2023. The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) has scheduled the Presidential and the National Assembly elections for the 23rd of February while Governorships and State House of Assembly elections will hold on the 11th of March

According to Meta, the team which has a number of Nigerians and others was put together purposely for the election. 

Addressing a press conference in Lagos on Wednesday, Meta’s Head of Public Policy for Anglophone West Africa, Adaora Ikenze noted that members that made up the team are experts in misinformation, public policy programmes, and communication. 

“The team also includes individuals with global expertise in misinformation, hate speech, elections, and disinformation. These teams are working hard to prevent any abuse of our services before, during, and after Nigeria’s 2023 general elections. Locally, we also have staff who reside in Nigeria and work in public policy, & public policy programmes, and communications,” she said. 

Adaora added that Meta has a big responsibility of keeping people safe from any danger that might come through misinformation on its platforms. She noted that the social media giant has invested hugely to reduce misinformation and harmful content on its platforms while promoting civic engagement.

“We know we have an important responsibility when it comes to helping keep people safe during the elections. Using lessons from the past including input from experts and policymakers across the national spectrum, we’ve made substantial investments in people and technology to reduce misinformation, remove harmful content on our platforms, fight voter interference and promote civic engagement during the elections”, she noted. 

Similarly, Meta added that it is working closely with all relevant election authorities and local partners in Nigeria to ensure quick identification of any potential threats before, during, and after the election. 

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Telecommunications

NCC Announces Airtel as the Sole Bidder for the Second 5G Spectrum Auction

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The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) has announced Airtel Network Limited as the sole bidder for the 5G spectrum scheduled for auction on December 19, 2022.

Airtel has since deposited $27.36 million ahead of the auction.

Investors King could recall that MTN and Mafab Communication won the first 5G spectrum auction which also had Airtel as a competitor. 

According to the NCC, only two telecom companies, Airtel Africa and Standard Network & Connections Limited expressed interest in the auction as of the stipulated deadline which was Monday, December 5, 2022. 

Therefore, the NCC noted that there would be no auction as Airtel would be assigned one of the available lots of 100 MHz TDD Spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band.

Investors King understands that the $27.36 million deposit is 10 percent of the reserve price for the spectrum fixed at $273.6 million. The same price was paid by MTN and Mafab Communications before the 5G spectrum was allocated to them individually. 

MTN on its part has since launched its 5G network in some cities which include Abuja, Lagos and Ibadan. The 5G network promised to enhance connectivity and stimulate broadband penetration in Nigeria. 

NCC further stated that an extension sought by Standard Network can not be granted owing to the auction timetable which had earlier been published. 

The statement by NCC partly read “Only Airtel paid the Intention to Bid Deposit as stipulated in the Information Memorandum (IM) whereas, Standard Network sent an email appeal for the deadline to be extended by 12 working days which was not acceptable in view of the auction timetable”. 

“Having met all the provisions in the IM, Airtel has, therefore, emerged as the sole bidder. Consequently, there shall be no further bidding and the Commission will proceed to the assignment stage in line with the published Information Memorandum guiding the licensing process,” the statement added. 

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