Nigeria’s regulator has pushed back MTN’s deadline for paying its $5.2 billion fine until the ongoing discussions between the 2 parties have been resolved.
Originally set for today (November 16), the fine was imposed after MTN failed to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards from its network – a penalty of $1000 per SIM. All of Nigeria’s major operators had previously agreed to this term earlier this year as part of a major drive by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to crack down on unverified subscribers in a bid to prevent criminal and terrorist activity.
The penalty has caused significant upheaval at MTN, with CEO Sifiso Dabengwa resigning in penance as the operator attempts to negotiate a reduction in the size of the fine. Dabengwa has been temporarily replaced by previous president & CEO Phutuma Nhleko in the interim.
MTN has stated that while the NCC originally “set a deadline for the payment of the fine by 16 November, shareholders are advised that the Nigerian authorities have, without prejudice, agreed that the imposed fine will not be payable until the negotiations have been concluded”. It added that Nhleko has “personally met with Nigerian authorities to continue the ongoing discussions with them regarding the fine”.
The operator has also refuted claims that it had agreed to pay off the fine in instalments, with spokesman Chris Maroleng saying “we have arrived at no agreement nor requested, as has been alleged in some media reports, such staggered payments with the authorities in Nigeria.”
While negotiations over the fine are ongoing, the NCC recently gave its approval for the renewal and expansion of MTN’s licence in the country for the next 5 years.