MTN Pays $100M Tranche Of $1.7B Nigeria Fine. South African telecoms giant MTN which is the largest mobile provider in Nigeria, has paid nearly $100m of a $1.7 bn fine for failing to disconnect unregistered SIM cards in Nigeria, officials said on Friday.
Tony Ojobo, spokesman for Nigeria Communication Commission NCC):
“MTN has paid N30bn ($98m, 92 million euros) as part of the fine. The payment is in furtherance of the agreed timetable for payment of the total fine. Yes, we have made another payment. It’s in fulfilment of our financial obligations to the NCC regarding the fine.”
He said MTN had already paid N80bn of the total fine of N330bn.
MTN was initially hit with a $5.2 bn fine in October 2015 for failing to cut off 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards as requested by the Nigerian government. Security was cited as being behind the move, over fears of unregistered SIMs in the remote northeast.
MTN’s battle with Nigerian authorities over payment of the fine had caused a weakening of the stock price by a third amid a lack of clarity about the negotiations and posturing by Nigerian politicians. The government originally issued a $5.2 billion penalty and later lowered it to $3.9 billion. MTN offered $1.5 billion in March, made up of $750 million in cash and the balance in the form of various investments.
MTN engaged Holder, a partner at law firm Covington & Burling LLP, to challenge the penalty. Holder, the U.S. attorney general from 2009 to 2015, now advises clients on litigation matters. In December 2015, the original $5.2B fine was reduced to $3.4 billion, then cut further in June last year to $1.7 billion, which at the time was equivalent to 330 billion naira. The payment is staggered over three years. In line with the agreement, the last tranche of the bill will be paid on 31 May 2019.
Ojobo also said MTN was expected to pay the next tranche of the fine “based on the payment schedule agreed by the two parties.”