The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said MTN Nigeria Limited must stick to today's deadline to pay a record N780 billion fine, even after Africa’s largest phone company prepares to try and overturn the penalty in court. “The deadline remains,” Tony Ojobo, a spokesman for the NCC was quoted by Bloomberg as stating yesterday.
The NCC will consult with lawyers about what to do if the Johannesburg-based company doesn’t pay the fine today, he said, without providing detail on possible actions the regulator may take. MTN is challenging the penalty at the Federal High Court in Lagos, after it said earlier this month the NCC didn’t have the power to impose the fine.
The regulator took action after MTN failed to meet a deadline to disconnect 5.2 million unregistered subscribers as security agencies seek to fight crime and Islamist militants in a country with poor identity records. The regulator “will allow” the courts to do their work and the NCC is planning to challenge the MTN dispute filed in Lagos, Ojobo said.
MTN spokesman Chris Maroleng declined to comment beyond a December 17 statement announcing the decision to go to court. The company’s shares have declined 27 per cent since the fine was made public on October 26, valuing the wireless operator at 256 billion rand ($16.5 billion).
While MTN Chairman Phuthuma Nhleko has been leading negotiations with the Nigerian authorities after Chief Executive Officer Sifiso Dabengwa resigned, Ojobo said he wasn’t aware of any talks currently being held between MTN, the NCC and the federal government.