MTN Nigeria appeals against $3.9bn fine

MTN is appealing against the Nigerian regulator’s $3.9 billion fine on the company, but a Nigerian lawyer is challenging MTN’s right to contest the judgment.

The Nigerian Communications Commission fined MTN $5.2 billion in October 2015 for failing to disconnect users with unregistered SIM cards. The regulator later cut the fine by 25%.

The final deadline for payment was 31 December, but MTN missed that date and says that, because the matter is now before a court, the Nigerian government cannot take action until the case is decided.

The NCC has not yet taken action to enforce the fine, though it has said the deadline will not be extended. South Africa’s Sunday Times reported an NCC official saying: “We are standing by the deadline. If MTN doesn’t pay we will have to consult our lawyers and there could be certain consequences.”

An activist Lagos lawyer, Tope Alabi, has asked Nigeria’s federal high court to dismiss MTN’s appeal, claiming that MTN has no reasonable case. MTN has hired the former president of the Nigerian bar association to argue on its behalf.

MTN has not publicly updated its position since 17 December, when it said: “MTN Nigeria acting on legal advice has resolved that the manner of the imposition of the fine and the quantum thereof is not in accordance with the NCC’s powers under the Nigerian Communications Act and therefore there are valid grounds upon which to challenge the fine.”