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MTN Nigeria hit with deadline to pay fine

MTN Nigeria given deadline to pay fine.

MTN has until 16 November to pay the US$5.2 billion (NGN1.04 trillion) fine according to Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) spokesperson Tony Ojobo.

Ojobo said the regulator acted on the network's breach of law. "The deadline set for the payment of the fine is November 16. The key issue is if MTN breached the law or not. Certainly, there was a breach. And if there is a breach, we will apply the law," he told AFP.

Earlier this week the mobile operator was fined over its alleged failure to deactivate all unregistered SIM cards within seven days in accordance with an NCC directive to all telcos.

The NCC had threatened telcos that disobeyed with severe sanctions. According to the regulator MTN failed to deactivate the 5.1 million lines that had incomplete registration details prompting the commission to announce a one thousand US dollar fine for each of the affected lines.

Negotiations

Ojobo also confirmed that affected parties have officially began negotiations over the fine. "Senior officials of the government, the NCC and MTN began talks in Abuja on Thursday to thrash out a solution to the matter."

Ojobo did not say specifically what action the regulator would take if MTN failed to meet the payment deadline. "When we get to the bridge, we will know how to cross it. The deadline set for the payment of the fine is November 16. If the situation will change in any way, then the government at the top will have to so direct. But for now, the mood is to apply the law," he said.

In communication with shareholders MTN said it is "engaging with the Nigerian authorities on the regulatory aspects of this matter".

"In addition senior management of the Company and its advisors are currently engaging with the JSE Limited on the timing of the aforementioned SENS announcement. The Company will update shareholders through SENS on these engagements as soon as possible. Shareholders are therefore advised to exercise caution when dealing in the Company's securities until a further announcement is made," the company stated.

There are also indications that MTN may engage the South African High Commission in Nigeria to intervene in resolving the crisis, with the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Lulu Mnguni, confirming the High Commission's readiness to intervene.

"It (MTN) is engaging the NCC for now, we cannot get involved in the matter until MTN asks us to intervene, but we are watching the process," he said.

In a related development, legislators in Nigeria have expressed their readiness to wade into the matter.

Specifically, lawmakers have resolved to investigate the roles played by the stakeholders resulting in the non-compliance with the directive issued by the Nigerian government ordering the telcos to deactivate inadequately registered lines.

The motion for the investigation was moved by Hon Oluwole Oke as a matter of urgent national importance.

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