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MTN settles Nigerian fine with $1.7B payment

MTN Nigeria has come to an agreement with the government of Nigeria over the colossal fine issued to the operator eight months ago.

Initially standing at $5.2 billion and later reduced to $3.4 billion, the fine was imposed on MTN after it failed to comply with a security order to disconnect unregistered SIM cards from its network. The order was aimed at combating terrorism.

After initially refusing the pay “a dime or penny” of the fine, MTN has agreed to hand over NGN330 billion ($1.67 billion) – around a third of the original penalty. This factors in $250 million already paid “in good faith and without prejudice” by MTN in February, meaning that it still owes $1.4 billion. The operator will pay this sum in six instalments of various sizes (from $150 million to $276 million) by 31st May 2019.

MTN has noted that it “subscribes to the voluntary observance of the code of corporate governance for the telecommunications industry and will ensure compulsory compliance when the said code is made mandatory for the telecommunications industry.” It added that it would “always ensure full compliance with its license terms and conditions”.

MTN Group Executive Chairman Phuthuma Nhleko stated that MTN and the NCC had “restored and strengthened” their relationship following the negotiations, and added that “this is the best outcome for the company, its stakeholders, the federal government of Nigeria and the Nigerian people.”

Nhleko was initially brought in for six months after former CEO Sifiso Dabengwa resigned over the fine, but has retained his position while MTN resolved the dispute. The operator is looking for a new CEO, and has confirmed that it will “take immediate steps” to list its shares on the Nigerian stock exchange once the agreement has been carried out.

Negotiations over the fine were recently suspending pending the conclusion of an investigation by Nigeria’s House of Representatives committee.

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