MTN to pay ₦55 billion fine to Nigerian Govt. in March

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Nigeria’s largest telecoms company, MTN, is due to pay a fresh ₦55 billion to the Nigerian Government in March, this year, correspondent has learnt.

The payment, which must be paid latest by March 31, 2018, is in line with the continuation of its settlement of a ₦330 billion fine negotiated to be paid for violating Nigeria’s Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) rules in Nigeria in 2016.

It would be recalled that in October 2015, the county’s telecoms regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), had fined MTN Nigeria the sum of ₦1.04 trillion over alleged breach of SIM registration rules.

The reduced amount of ₦330 billion included the initial payment of ₦50 billion earlier made by MTN to government. The balance of ₦280 billion was consequently agreed to be made in six tranches within a period of three years spanning 2017 and 2019. By the terms of agreement, MTN had fulfilled payment two payments after the agreement including ₦30 billion in on June 10, 2016 and another ₦30 billion in March 31, 2017.

The two payments were made into the NCC’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) residing with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). This year, MTN is paying ₦55 billion in the next nine weeks – precisely by March 31, in line with the staggered payment deal.

The remaining payments are to be made in 2019 on March 31, 2019 (₦55 billion) and the May 31, 2019, (₦55 billion.).

“As you must have noticed, MTN has been consistent in its fine payment plan. We have not defaulted and even as promise our commitment to obeying the laws of the land as good corporate citizens,” said an official of MTN who pleaded not to be named. According to another source at NCC, “Except MTN is stroking another crisis; MTN Nigeria must cough out ₦55 billion as part of its SIM rule violation fine settlement to the Nigerian government. As you know, the next payment is due in this quarter.”

The ₦55 billion to be paid this quarter is the only payment MTN Nigeria is expected to pay this year.

“The March payment will be this year’s obligation that must be met by MTN management in line with the agreement reached with the regulator during the final settlement of the ₦1.04 trillion fine imposed on the telecoms company in 2015,” the NCC official said.

MTN incurred the unprecedented fine in 2015 for violating subscriber registration as stipulated by the Nigerian Communication Act 2001 and SIM Registration Regulations in Nigeria. It would be recalled that following eight months tussle between the NCC and MTN Nigeria, over the fine saga, the matter was finally put to rest on June 11, 2016 when both parties arrived at a consensus.

Part of the agreements reached then was that MTN will pay a reduced fine of ₦330 billion, in a staggered form, within a time limit of three years. The telco, it was agreed, will also be listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange (NSE), as soon as it is commercially and legally possible to do so. This newspaper gathered that the fine saga has adversely affected MTN’s growth and expansion plan.

According to the latest data released by the NCC, MTN subscribers hitherto standing at over 60 million before the crisis erupted in 2015, has dropped to 52 million as at last November.

Meanwhile, MTN has also started process that will lead to fulfilling part of the obligation in the agreement reached with the NCC to ensure it get listed in Nigeria. However, while this has not fully materialised, analysts say the discussions with the SEC, which started last August, was a good signal that the telecoms company was serious about listing in Nigeria. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in August 2017 announced it had opened discussions with MTN to ensure successful electronic listing of the telecoms company on the NSE. The former Director-General of SEC, Mounir Gwarzo, made the disclosure at the Second Post-Capital Market Committee held in Lagos.

According to Gwarzo, the parties had been on the matter since the past two months then. He said that the NSE had provided needed ideas to MTN on ways to go about the issue in the interest of retail investors. “MTN Nigeria is back and we are on course as regards its listing on NSE,” Gwarzo had said.