MTN has not paid the 780 billion Naira (R60.6 billion) fine in Nigeria which it had purportedly been given until 31 December 2015 to pay, the Sunday Times reported.
There has been much confusion about the New Year’s deadline for MTN to pay the fine, with conflicting statements coming from the Nigerian government.
The Sunday Times quoted Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) spokesman Tony Ojobo as saying that the deadline would not be extended.
“We are standing by the deadline. If MTN doesn’t pay we will have to consult our lawyers and there could be certain consequences,” he said.
However, conflicting statements about the issue has been coming from the Nigerian Ministry of Communications.
Initially the Ministry told Bloomberg that it would not consider an extension to the deadline.
“MTN has the right to seek the court’s interpretation if it feels unsatisfied with the action of the regulator but nothing would stop the government action on the fine,” said Victor Oluwadamilare, the spokesman for Communications Minister Adebayo Shittu.
A subsequent report in Reuters had a very different statement by Oluwadamilare, saying that the Nigerian government would not do anything after the 31 December deadline expires.
“The federal government, NCC (regulator) or any government agent will not do anything at the expiration of the Dec 31 deadline,” Oluwadamilare said.
“Now that they (MTN) have gone to court we will await the outcome of the case. This is a government that believes in the rule of law.”
MTN Nigeria’s fine: from R71-billion to R60.6-billion
The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) fined MTN ₦1.04-trillion (around R71-billion at the time, or ±R80.8-billion today) in October 2015 for not disconnecting unregistered SIMs on its network.
After negotiations with Nigerian authorities, the fine was reduced by 25% to ₦780-billion (now around R60.6-billion).
Dissatisfied with the outcome, MTN opted to take the matter to court in Lagos.
MTN has said that because the matter is now before court, previous judicial decisions in Nigeria show that neither it nor the Nigerian government can take further action until a ruling has been made.