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MTN begins legal battle against Nigeria fine

MTN is mounting a legal challenge against the $3.9 billion fine issued by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

The massive fine has already been reduced by 25% from the original $5.2 billion, after negotiations between the operator and the Nigerian regulator. As it stands, payment is due on 31 December 2015.

The penalty was incurred after MTN failed to comply with a regulatory order to disconnect unregistered SIMs as part of Nigeria’s drive to verify subscribers as a counter-terrorism measure. MTN was the only operator in the country that did not meet the deadline for this order.

However, it seems that the case is far from resolved, with MTN now stating that following a company review, it has “instructed its lawyers to proceed with an action in the federal high court in Lagos seeking appropriate reliefs” as “the manner of the imposition of the fine and the quantum thereof is not in accordance with the NCC’s powers.”

While this move suggests that MTN’s legal advice has provided a valid argument for a challenge, the operator is clearly unwilling to see the dispute turn acrimonious, stating that it will engage the NCC to “try and ensure an amicable resolution in the best interests of the company, its stakeholders and Nigerian authorities”.

The penalty has already precipitated the resignation of 3 senior executives, including former CEO Sifiso Dabengwa who has been replaced by Phuthuma Nhleko. MTN’s legal counsel has noted that “in the current circumstances, in line with pending leading action, the parties are enjoined to restrain from taking further action until the matter is fully determined.”

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