Like Mourinho, MTN suffering the curse of a woman scorned

With a November 16 deadline to pay a $5.2 billion (N1.04 trillion) fine imposed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for failing to disconnect unregistered SIM cards, South African mobile giant, MTN, can draw inspiration from another troubled brand, Jose Mourinho of Chelsea.

After strolling to the 2014/2015 English Premier League titled, the self-proclaimed Special One presently finds his club languishing in the 15th position on a 20-team log. A once fortified Stamford Bridge has since become an auction centre were team big and small walk away with valuable points.

Mourinho is no stranger to controversy and sanctions but his woes this season have seen him described this as the worst period of his coaching career.

It began on August 8, the opening day of the season, after the two-time Champions League Portuguese winning tactician openly clashed with his team’s doctor, Eva Carneiro.

With Chelsea struggling late in a match at home to Swansea, midfielder Eden Hazard went to ground and the referee called for treatment, at which point Carneiro and physio Jon Fearn went on to the pitch to treat him.

After the 2-2 draw, Mourinho branded his medical staff “impulsive and naïve” as treating Hazard meant Chelsea was temporarily down to nine men – Thibaut Courtois had already been sent off.

“Whether you are a kit man, doctor or secretary on the bench you have to understand the game,” Mourinho said.

It emerged that the 42-year-old’s role at the club was to change with a downgrading of responsibilities, limiting her to the team’s training base as she would no longer attend matches.

She responded by parting company with the West London outfit and her lawyers on Thursday served notice on the club that she intends to bring a claim for constructive dismissal.

Chelsea has gone on to lose five out of 10 Premier League matches as the face-off becomes messier. Two of the losses came at home to Crystal Palace and Southampton.

The beleaguered Mourinho was hit with a misconduct charge from the Football Association on Monday following his half-time rant in his team’s shock 2-1 defeat against West Ham last week Saturday.

He was already appealing against a £50,000 fine and suspended one-match stadium ban for comments made about officials following Chelsea’s home loss against Southampton on Mourinho, October 3.

Mourinho, first-team coach Silvino Louro, and midfielder Nemanja Matic were all sent off by referee Jon Moss in the game against West Ham at Upton Park.

The misery continued when Chelsea’s defence of the Capital One Cup came to an end on a frustrating night in Stoke on Tuesday with a penalty shootout loss which saw last season’s Player of the Season, Hazard, miss his spot kick.

With the 52-year-old facing the prospect of a second sack by Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, some Chelsea fans and Mourinho haters believe the manager is under a curse imposed by Carneiro.

Back in Nigeria, all was seemingly well for MTN until Monday when news broke that industry regulator, NCC, had slammed a crippling N1.04 trillion fine on Africa’s number 1 telecommunications company.

The firm has been given till November 16 to pay up or suffer what may include non renewal of licence.

Some insiders say that is just reward for unfair treatment meted out to customers and staff.

Like Mourinho, MTN Nigeria murdered sleep with the recent sacking of its erstwhile General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Funmi Omogbenigun.

Staff of the company were left devastated when the woman was dismissed shortly after resuming from her annual leave.

No official reason was given for her sack, but an insider told that some people at the top felt she had become “toxic” to the system.

She was simply invited by another senior management staff to his office and told that her services were no longer required.

Two options were placed before her – resign or be fired.

She chose the former.

The company did not stop at that, it twisted the knife when security men were told to escort her to her office and collect the key to her official SUV.

Reduced to tears, Omogbenigun pleaded that they let her drive home and send down the key, an offer the security men accepted.

Her humiliation came as a shock to staff of the company especially those working with her.

“Those of us working with her felt like traitors going back to work after she was sacked,” one of them told this online newspaper.

He continued: “If Funmi was guilty of anything, it was sacrificing her all for the company. Her colleagues in corporate affairs love her and her work ethic was an inspiration to many. She was the kind of boss anybody should be proud to have.” recalls that in 2006 the most senior Nigerian staff of MTN, Funke Opeke, appointed after a long search for a Nigerian replacement for Demola Eleso resigned only after five months.

ThisDay reported that Opeke resigned after the company reneged on some of the agreements reached during negotiations leading to her employment.

Many people have left MTN – which makes the bulk of its profit from Nigeria – in controversial circumstances over the years but the sack of Omogbenigun could have triggered the Carneiro curse.

MTN’s stock declined more than 12%, the biggest one-day decline since November 1998, to 167 rand in South Africa on the (JSE). That’s the lowest closing price since June 2013 and values the Johannesburg-based company at 308 billion rand ($23 billion).

MTN was the biggest decliner in percentage terms on the benchmark FTSE/JSE Africa All Share Index, while also weighing more on the gauge than any other security on Monday.

Announcing the November 16 deadline set for the payment of the fine imposed on MTN,” NCC spokesman Tony Ojobo told AFP on Thursday: the Commission’s powers include “granting or revoking of permits for connection of customer equipment” and “determination of services and new undertakings eligible for licensing from time to time”.

ThisDay also reported that MTN Group Limited is reviewing the position of its senior management in Nigeria headed by Michael Ikpoki.