Nigerian telecommunications minister, Adebayo Shittu has told the South African mobile phone operator MTN to drop its legal action over a $3.9 billion fine imposed on the company to facilitate an amicable settlement.
“As far as we are concerned there can be no out of court settlement except the case is taken out of court so that government will not be put under pressure whatsoever. If the case is out of court, if they make further moves, Mr. president will graciously take a decision. For now I’m not aware of any out of court settlement,” said the minister on Tuesday.
The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) had slapped MTN with a fine of $5.2 billion when it failed to disconnect unregistered SIM card users but it later reduced the amount by 25 percent in October after negotiations.
As far as we are concerned there can be no out of court settlement except the case is taken out of court so that government will not be put under pressure whatsoever.
MTN, which makes about 37 percent of its revenue from Nigeria, had filed a suit challenging NCC’s basis for imposing the penalty.
The minister further reiterated that the withdrawal of the case will reduce pressure on both sides.
“The case is in court, it was MTN which took government to court because they wanted to perhaps buy time.. for whatever.. I don’t want to cast any aspersions. I’m aware also that after the court, they made certain moves but you know very well that in situations like this the nation’s sensitivity is involved.”
A judge in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, last week gave the company until March 18 to try to reach a settlement with the Nigerian authorities over the fine.
The prospect of a lower fine has boosted MTN shares.