Government disagrees with MTN over $250m payment

Sammie Nedum, Lagos

A general view of the headquarters of South Africa's MTN Group in Johannesburg, May 27, 2008. South African companies and investors are beginning to use their base in Africa's biggest and most sophisticated market as a springboard to move into the continent's fast-growing frontier markets. Picture taken May 27, 2008. To match Feature FRONTIERS/AFRICA REUTERS/Mike Hutchings (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: BUSINESS)

The Nigerian government has disagreed with telecom operator, MTN, over the $250m it paid, out of the N1.04tr fine imposed on it, by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.

The Special Assistant to the Minister of Communications, Victor Oluwadamilare said that the development had not been made official as it was still under government’s study.

 ‘‘That has not been established and I can confirm to you that the situation is still being studied. To the best of my knowledge, the amount announced is not the fine they are expected to pay. Federal Government is still studying it,” Oluwadamilare said.

He further stated that, ‘‘they decided to go to court and never wanted an amicable settlement. If they now want settlement, there has to be an official statement on that soon.’’  

Bail out

MTN Nigeria was reported to have bowed to the Nigerian Communications Commission by paying the sum of $250m as part of the N1.04tr fine imposed on it by industry regulator.

Apparently, it shows that the payment was made to pave way for a possible settlement out of court with the NCC after all its effort to stop the payment failed.

The NCC had in October 2015, slammed a fine on MTN for its failure to deactivate over 500,000 unregistered subscribers after series of warnings were issued by the regulator to terminate them.

The company was originally given a fine of $5.2bn in October, 2015 and after weeks of lobbying by the telecom company, the fine was reduced by 25 percent (3.9 billion Dollars).

MTN went to court to challenge the legality of NCC to impose such a huge fine on it but failed to argue its case to logical conclusion.

Not satisfied, the telecom company also went further to hire a former United States Attorney-General, Eric Holder, to help challenge the propriety of the fine.

Holder is said to have pleaded with Nigerian officials last month on behalf of the telecoms company without any fruitful outcome.

After hearing the case, the presiding judge in January gave the two parties a two month period to settle out of court.

However, a judge in Lagos also last month, gave both parties until March 18 to reach a settlement, after MTN had asked the court to arbitrate over the dispute, saying NCC had no legal grounds to order the fine.