An overwhelming majority of Nigerians have applauded the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for imposing a $5.2 billion (N1.4trillion) penalty on mobile telecommunications giant, MTN, some saying it’s the best move made so far by the regulator.

The NCC had placed a N200, 000 ($1, 000) fine on each unregistered cell phone line that MTN failed to disconnect after a deadline agreed upon by GSM providers and NCC to do so.

MTN has allegedly been extorting money from its 60million Nigerian subscribers to pay the fine as well as covertly funding a media campaign against the regulator and the Nigerian government.

MTN Group of South Africa, the owners of MTN Nigeria, has seen its shares tumble by at least 20% in the Johannesburg bourse since the fine was imposed last week.

A recent Reuters’ report citing two sources said MTN had written a letter to the NCC apologizing for not disconnecting the lines and asked for leniency.

Giving details of the fine, NCC said the commission had consistently engaged mobile network operators to strictly adhere to the regulations and its business rules in the registration of their subscribers.

But despite all of these several engagements, the commission confirmed various cases of violations of the regulations against MTN and sanctioned appropriately.

MTN executives from South Africa are in Nigeria and are in talks with authorities over the matter.

Failure to disconnect unregistered lines fuels kidnapping and other dangerous crimes that feed on mobile telephony.

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