MTN Group is querying a XOF134 billion ($213 million) bill issued to it by the regulator of Benin for unpaid frequency fees.
The South African operator group is holding ongoing discussions with the regulator Arcep to reach an agreement over the penalty, which MTN has described as “excessive”. The fine relates to spectrum fees levied across 2016 and 2017.
An atmosphere of controversy surrounds these discussions, with Benin’s interior ministry recently ordering the Stephen Blewett, the head of MTN Benin, to leave the country before 24th November on the grounds that he had participated in “activities detrimental to security and public order”.
MTN issued a statement defending Blewett, arguing that he had “discharged his duties as directed by MTN Group with the utmost integrity” and that his actions had been legal.
The government’s accusation against Blewett and the spectrum fee penalty are not the first indications of a volatile relationship between operator and Benin’s authorities. MTN was earlier this year issued another fine for XOF492 million, with the government citing the operator’s “persistent failure to meet its obligations on standards of service”.
At the end of Q3 2017, MTN led the Benin market with a 45% market share.