MTN to appeal Shs50.7b licence ruling

Thursday May 06 2021
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By Paul Murungi

MTN has said it will appeal against the High Court decision in which it was ordered to pay money for a transitional licence amounting to $14.4m (Shs50.7b). 
MTN had petitioned court challenging the legality of the assessment by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) for a transitional licence between October 2018 and June 2020.
The telecom had during the period operated on short term licence extensions as negotiations to renew its licence dragged on. 

However, last week, the Civil Division of the High Court dismissed the case with costs, directing that MTN pays the $14.14m, noting that UCC, as the regulator of the telecommunications sector, had the mandate and the knowledge to assess fees for the licences that had been handed to the telecom in the three year. 
In his ruling, High Court judge Musa Ssekaana noted there had been no impropriety in UCC’s decision to impose transition fees based on a pro-rated assessment and that the same was fairly arrived at and guided by the amount paid for of $100m in the currently renewed licence.

“… it has been shown that the respondent [UCC] arrived at the amount payable as transition fees in the fairest manner and no reasonable person would think otherwise. Otherwise, any amount beyond what was agreed and paid for in the [National Operator] licence would have been challenged as being excessive and using the figure originally paid in Second National Operator licence in 1998 would have been irrational since it would be extremely low,” he ruled. 
Quoting Section 6(1)(a) of the Uganda Communications Act, Justice Ssekaana noted that the determination and charging of licence fees is one of the operational administrative powers exercisable by UCC under the Uganda Communications Act 2013.

However, in a statement, MTN said that whereas it respects the decision of the High Court, it would seek an appeal in which it would petition the Court of Appeal to review the matter. 
“MTN is confident that the Court of Appeal will at an appropriate time, consider all matters raised by MTN comprehensively and pronounce itself in accordance with the law and evidence on record,” the statement signed by Ms Rhona Arinaitwe, the MTN public relations manager, noted.  

What MTN had sought    

MTN had asked court to quash a decision in which UCC had required it to pay $14.14m as licence fees for the transition period and an order restraining UCC from implementing its decision and in any way interfering with or interrupting its operations.