N780bn Fine: FG Accuses N’Assembly of Stalling Settlement by MTN

  • Chairman of S’African telco to exit as fine resolution looms

Dele Ogbodo in Abuja with agency report

The Minister of Communications Technology, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, wednesday accused the National Assembly of stalling progress in the payment of the balance N780 billion fine imposed on the telecommunications giant MTN, for breach of SIM card registration rules last year.

Asked on why there is delay from MTN in settling the balance fine, he said: “If you are talking about MTN fine, I was at the National Assembly recently and the real process to my mind is the fact the National Assembly particularly the House of Representative is investigating this matter.

“Those of us expected to make comments decided to withhold our comments because we know that whatever we do will invariably be subject to the outcome of this investigation by the lawmakers. So for me, that is the reason we have not yet made greater progress.

“And as you would have seen yesterday the process of legislative investigation is still ongoing and once it is concluded, I hope positively that we get things going and I think the matter will be put behind us.”
Shittu who spoke at a workshop organised by thea Nigeria Information Technology Professionals in Civil and Public Service (NITPCS) in Abuja said the best candidate that emerged best from the recently conducted interview for the position of the Post Master General for the Postal Service (NIPOST), will soon be announced following approval from President Muhammadu Buhari.

Meanwhile, MTN Group executive chairman Phuthuma Nhleko, who returned to lead the African wireless company’s negotiations over a record N780 billion fine in Nigeria, is moving forward with plans to step down next month, according to a person familiar with the matter, a sign that he is confident a resolution will be reached by then.
Nhleko would not return to a non-executive role before he came to an agreement with the Nigerian attorney-general, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the plans were private.

The chairman took the executive position on a six-month basis in November to “proactively deal” with Nigerian authorities after chief executive Sifiso Dabengwa resigned, Nhleko said at the time.
The plan for an on-time departure provides a ray of clarity, however thin, into a murky, months-long crisis that has gutted the share value of MTN by one-third.

Getting it solved has been the top priority of Nhleko, who ran MTN as chief executive for almost nine years until 2011.

The company according to Bloomberg, proposed a $1.5billion package last month that included N150 billion (R11billion) in cash alongside other incentives.
The Nigerian government has not formally responded, though some legislators have called for even bigger fines.
MTN spokesman Chris Maroleng was not immediately available for comment.

A spokesman for the Nigerian attorney-general said he was preparing a statement.
MTN was hit by the penalty in October for missing a government-imposed deadline to disconnect 5.1 million subscribers who had been declared unregistered following a crackdown on security.