MTN agrees to pay $251m as negotiations on Nigerian fine continue

MTN Group Ltd. has agreed to pay N50 billion ($251 million) following ongoing negotiations with Nigerian communications regulator NCC over a record $3.9 billion fine slapped on it for failing to disconnect unregistered subscribers before an August 2015 deadline.

According to a statement by the company, it is paying the Nigerian government “on the basis that this will be applied towards a settlement, where one is eventually, hopefully arrived at”.

“In an effort to achieve an amicable settlement, MTN has agreed to withdraw the matter from the Federal High Court in Lagos,” the company said.

MTN had been handed the fine after missing the deadline on an order to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered customers. The move by the regulator  was aimed at supporting the fight against Boko Haram insurgency in the country by ensuring proper identity records. The Islamic militants have killed more than 15,000 people since 2009.

The telco had dragged NCC to court, maintaining that it went to court as a last resort but it would continue to seek an amicable end to the issue. It hired former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder to help in its negotiations with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

MTN has faced a couple of fines in recent times, including for selling pre‐registered SIM Cards and automatic migration of data bundle package to Pay-As-You-Go Billing on depletion of customers’ data bundle. It is also negotiating with the regulator over sanctions for failing to meet phone-service quality. standards.

Executive chairman of the MTN Group Phuthuma Nhleko will continue leading engagement with NCC with “a view to settling the matter”.