Nigerian politicians angry at negotiations on MTN's $3.9bn fine

11 March 2016 | Alan Burkitt-Gray


MTN is resisting attempts by Nigeria to make it pay the full $3.9 billion fine that was imposed on the South African-owned company because it was still using unregistered SIMs.

Meanwhile Nigeria’s federal politicians are angered that they are being denied a say in negotiations to reduce MTN’s fine.

MTN has already paid $250 million and has promised to pay further sums over the next four years, but the lower chamber of Nigeria’s National Assembly is insisting that the company pay the full amount.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuba raised the question of the fine during a visit to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari earlier this week – and the fact that the dispute is now in the hands of the two countries’ leaders also appears to be angering politicians and the telecoms regulator.

According to a report in South Africa’s Eyewitness News, the lower chamber of the National Assembly is insisting on the full $3.9 billion – a figure that was reduced from the initial fine of $5.2 billion.

The report says that the House of Representatives’ committee on telecommunications is not happy that it was excluded from the negotiations by the Nigerian federal government. The website quotes the chair of the telecoms committee, Saheed Akinade-Fijabi, as commenting: “Somebody went ahead to reduce the fine and now somebody is taking the lead in negotiations, which is not right. In all these issues that have been going on, the national assembly hasn’t been taken into consideration at all, which shouldn’t be.”

The Senate’s telecommunications committee is also objecting to the way that it and the Nigerian Communications Commission, the regulator, are not being allowed a say in the negotiations with MTN.

According to Nigerian news sources, Senator Gilbert Nnaji, chair of the committee, is complaining that the Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, has accepted MTN’s proposal for a lower fine without consulting the NCC or the Ministry of Justice.