MTN Group Appoints New CEO after Resolution of Nigerian Fine

  • Shittu shuns House c’tee meeting on fine

Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

South African-based telecoms giant, MTN, monday named a new chief executive after resolving a dispute with Nigeria over a huge fine for failing to disconnect millions of unregistered mobile phone lines.

MTN announced that Rob Shuter, a South African who is currently the Vodafone Europe CEO, would take over as its new group president and CEO next year.

Africa’s biggest wireless operator, MTN said in a statement that “following the successful resolution of the Nigerian dispute, it has completed the review of its governance and management structures.”

The Johannesburg-based company was last year hit with a $3.9 billion fine for failing to cut off 5.2 million unregistered SIM cards, amid fears that some of the affected lines were being used by Boko Haram insurgents.

The conflict, according to Reuters, sparked by the Islamic extremist group has left at least 17,000 dead and forced more than 2.6 million people from their homes since 2009.

On June 10, MTN announced that following negotiations with the Nigerian authorities, it had agreed to pay $1.7 billion as a final settlement.

Shuter will take over from executive chairman Phuthuma Nhleko, who stepped in last November in the thick of the Nigerian fine debacle.

“MTN has weathered a rather difficult storm and will continue to review its governance and management operating structure to ensure that it operates at an optimum level and continues to replenish management talent to ensure a sustained growth of the business,” said Nhleko.

“I am confident that with the calibre of Rob Shuter as CEO, the group will resume its path to playing its rightful role in increasing connectivity and accelerating convergence across Africa and the Middle East.”
Nhleko will revert to his post as non-executive chairman when Shuter takes over.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, yesterday shunned a meeting with the House of Representatives Committee on Telecommunications aimed at discussing the reduction of the N1.04 trillion fine slammed on telecommunications provider, MTN Nigeria Limited, to N330 billion.

While the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, wrote a letter to the committee explaining his inability to attend, Shittu neither wrote any letter nor sent any representative to the meeting.
At the meeting slated for 2p.m., only officials of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) led by the Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Garba Danbatta, were present.

The Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Saheed Fijabi, said the meeting would be the last meeting over the matter, as the committee had enough materials to present its report to the House.

“The Attorney General sent in a letter that he is to represent Mr. President at an event in Lagos. But other parties in this hearing are not present. We cannot take the NCC alone,” he said, as the committee retreated into an executive session.

The House had mandated the committee to investigate the circumstances which led to the reduction of the initial N1.04trillion fine to N780bn.

MTN was slammed with the fine following its failure to deactivate 200,000 unregistered sim cards in line with the NCC Act.

The lawmakers had rejected the reduction arguing that the NCC Act stipulates a certain amount of money as penalty for each unregistered SIM, therefore any reduction can only be effected by an amendment to the Act.