N780b fine: Federal Govt receives N50b, talks with MTN to continue

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria  

The Nigerian government yesterday confirmed that MTN had paid N50 billion into its account part of the payment of the larger N780 billion fine imposed on the telco last year over subscriber identity module (SIM) card registration rule violations by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC). 

The government, through the ComTech Minister, Barr Adebayo Shittu, also confirmed that the telco, as promised, has withdrawn the suit it instituted against the regulator at a Lagos court.

The ComTech minister explained that with the “down payment”, it is now in a position to enter into any further negotiation with MTN on the issue.

The minister’s Senior Assistant for media, Victor Oluwadare, who spoke on behalf of the minister in Lagos, said the payment of the N50 billion would pave the way for the Federal Government to grant an audience to MTN on any further discussion on the issue.

“It is now confirmed that MTN has made a down payment of N50 billion and withdrawn the case against NCC pending negotiation on the settlement.

“The new position is in line with the earlier promise made Wednesday that as soon as the issue of payment and other related issues are confirmed, Nigerians will be informed,” he explained through a short statement.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, MTN explained that in its renewed steps towards a negotiated settlement and to create a conducive atmosphere for further negotiations, MTN Nigeria has withdrawn its case against the NCC at the Federal High Court of Lagos in response to the request by Nigeria authorities.

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

MTN Nigeria explained that the payment of N50 billion to the Federal Government was a gesture of good faith and commitment to continued efforts towards an amicable resolution.

The NCC had imposed a N1.04 Trillion fine on MTN Nigeria in October 2015, for its failure to disconnect 5.1 million improperly registered lines within the prescribed deadline.  Subsequently the fine was adjusted by 25% to N780 billion, an amount that was considered inimical to the survival of the business. MTN Nigeria subsequently sought judicial determination as a means of protecting the local ecosystems   valued and  supported  by MTN’s business.

Speaking about the withdrawal of the court case and the N50billion payment, Moolman stated that “We are hopeful at this stage. Along with the authorities, it is clear that   we are collectively committed to working towards a solution that is of mutual benefit to all parties.  Our industry in Nigeria is an incredibly important example of the remarkable progress in ICT particularly as a much needed catalyst for socio economic growth and development at this time.”

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