Last year, the Nigerian Communications Commission slapped MTN, the biggest telco in Nigeria with a with a $5 billion fine for failing to abide by rules that required mobile phone operators in Nigeria to disconnect unregistered Sim Cards. The NCC had initially asked all operators to comply by August 2015 but failure by MTN to register 5 Million of its 62 million customers led to the fine which was later slashed to $3.4 Billion.
MTN has been in talks with the regulator seeking to have the fine reduced, a matter which dragged for quite some time. In March, Nigerian media houses reported that MTN had entered into an agreement with the government and was to pay $1.5 billion through a combination of government bond purchases, cash installments and network access to the Nigerian government. These reports were however denied by the Nigerian government.
MTN which is South African, suffered a blow during a state visit by S.African head of state to Nigeria, as the matter failed to feature in the talks. Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari, during a press conference after the visit said MTN’s failure to disconnect lines used by Islamist group Boko Haram led to the fine. Buhari stated that over 10,000 Nigerian citizens died between 2009-2015 due to Boko Haram attacks and MTN contributed to the casualties owing to the slow action on unregistered sim cards used by the group.
The NCC and MTN have now amicably settled for a $1.7 Billion fine, which will be paid over a period of three years. Bloomberg also reports that MTN will list its Nigerian unit on the stock exchange. The company also agreed to abide by the compliance rules issued by the NCC in awarding of its license.
The agreement has ended months of a tag war which the Nigeria House of Representatives waded in seeking to have the fine increased.