Discussions MTN and the Nigeria Federal Government on the settlement of the $3.4 billion fine is yet to begin, as House of Representatives Committee on Communication continues investigations, Adebayo Shittu, communications minister said Wednesday.
MTN had initially withdrawn its court case challenging the Nigerian Communications Commission’s (NCC) authority to issue a N1.04 trillion fine and made a N50 billion payment in February 2016, to meet the government’s condition for out of court settlement.
Shittu, who spoke while briefing journalists after the Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, said: “The N50 billion MTN paid was to demonstrate willingness for out of court settlement.
“Negotiations have not yet commenced and the N50 billion which was paid may eventually form part of the payments. But the understanding is that it is a sign of an act of good faith that indeed they wanted out of court settlement.”
On December 4, 2015, MTN Group issued a release stating that although the NCC had initially sent MTN a letter that it had taken the decision to reduce the fine imposed on the MTN Nigerian business from the original N1.04 trillion to N674 billion, a reduction of 35 percent of the original fine which had to be paid by December 31, 2015. A second letter which was stated to supersede the first letter was sent which informed the company that the fine had actually been reduced by 25 percent to N780 billion and not by 35 percent to N674 billion, as was stated in the first letter. The payment date remained the same.
The minister of communications said the final decision on the matter rests on the Presidency and a few weeks to the December 31, 2015 deadline, MTN said they were left with no other choice but to go to court to challenge the NCC on its lack of powers to impose such a fine under its establishing laws.
“MTN’s board came to me to plead further that they could not pay. I told them to write another letter of appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari, who graciously allowed the initial reduction of the fine and attach the company’s bank account statements to show that it will collapse if such a huge amount is paid. That was the condition I gave and the next thing, I got a call telling me that MTN had gone to court,” Shittu said, while briefing ICT journalists in Lagos following the incident.
The communications minister also told journalists in Abuja that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) considered a memo on the approval of the final Acts and instruments amending the International Telecoms Radio Regulations.
Late last year, Nigerian regulators fined MTN $3.9bn for failing to disconnect 5.2 million unregistered subscribers. MTN, last month, also dropped a Nigerian court challenge of the fine as the company made a N50bn ‘good faith payment’ to Nigeria in a bid to reach a settlement.