MTN has withdrawn its suit against the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and paid N50 billion ($250 million) towards an amicable resolution of the fine imposed on the telecoms giant.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government, yesterday, denied knowledge of the development and payment of the money. NCC had fined MTN N1.04 trillion for failing to deactivate 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards and later reduced the amount to N780 billion after the first round of negotiations.
However, MTN filed a suit as the December 31, 2015 deadline drew nearer, and later requested an out-of-court settlement. Yesterday, the mobile phone company finally withdrew the case at the Federal High Court in Lagos in response to a request by the Nigerian authorities.
The Chief Executive Officer of MTN Nigeria, Ferdi Moolman, said on the withdrawal: “This is a most encouraging development. It demonstrates a willingness and sincerity by both parties to work together towards a positive outcome.”
MTN paid N50 billion to the Federal Government “as a gesture of good faith and commitment to continued efforts towards an amicable resolution,” according to the telecoms company.
Moolman further said: “We are hopeful at this stage. Along with the authorities, it is clear that we are collectively committed to working towards a solution that is of mutual benefit to all parties. “Our industry in Nigeria is an incredibly important example of the remarkable progress in ICT, particularly as a much needed catalyst for socio-economic growth and development at this time.”
We’re still studying situation —FG
Denying government’s knowledge of the development, Special Assistant to the Minister of Communications, Mr. Victor Oluwadamilare, who stated this in an interview with Vanguard, said the development had not been made official as the development was still under Federal Government’s scrutiny.
He said: “That has not been confirmed and I can confirm to you that the situation is still being studied. To the best of my knowledge, the amount announced is not the fine they are expected to pay. The Federal Government is still studying it.
“They decided to go to court and never wanted an amicable settlement. If they now want settlement, there has to be an official statement on that soon,” he said.
Our investigation showed that the payment was made to pave way for possible settlement out of court with the NCC after all its effort to stop the payment failed. Recall that the NCC had in October 2015, slammed a fine of N1.04 trillion on MTN for its failure to deactivate over five million improperly registered subscribers after series of warning had were issued by the regulator to terminate them.
The company was originally given a fine of $5.2 billion in October, 2015, and after weeks of lobbying by the telecom company, the fine was reduced by 25 percent ($3.9 billion). MTN Group went to court to challenge the legality of NCC to impose such a huge fine on it but failed to argue its case to logical conclusion.
Not satisfied, the telecom company also went further to hire a former U.S. attorney general to help challenge the propriety of the fine.Federal Government has denied the knowledge any payment of $250 million made by MTN over its N1.04 trillion fine imposed on it by the Nigerian Communications commission (NCC).
The former U.S. law enforcement officer, Eric Holder is said to have pleaded with Nigerian officials last month on behalf of the telecoms company without any fruitful outcome. After hearing the case, the presiding judge in January gave the two parties a two month period to settle out of court .
However, effort to confirm the development from MTN spokesperson did not yield result. A judge in Lagos also had last month gave both parties until March 18 to reach a settlement, after MTN had asked the court to arbitrate over the dispute, saying the Nigerian
Communications Commission (NCC) had no legal grounds to order the fine. Vanguard checks gathered that MTN on Wednesday resolved to withdraw its court challenge in an effort to reach an amicable settlement and make a payment of $250 million towards a possible settlement.