MTN declares peace with Nigeria and agrees $1.6bn investment

MTN declares peace with Nigeria and agrees $1.6bn investment

31 January 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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Days after Nigeria backed down on a $2 billion tax demand on MTN, the South African telecoms group has said it will invest $1.6 billion in the country.

A team of four top executives from MTN group and MTN Nigeria told Muhammadu Buhari (pictured), president of Nigeria, in a meeting that they will invest the money over the next three years.

“MTN announced a capital investment programme of $1.6 billion (approximately 580 billion naira) over the next three years to strengthen and expand its network and operations in the country,” said the company in a statement after the meeting.

In return Buhari said “that the Federal Government of Nigeria is committed to providing an enabling environment for businesses to succeed”.

MTN hopes that this marks the end of four years of running disputes with Nigeria, which at one time was threatening a fine of $5.2 billion, cut to an agreed $3.9 billion and then by another 25%, for continuing services to unregistered SIM cards.

In 2018 the Nigerian Central Bank said MTN had used “irregular capital importation certificates” and told it to repatriate $8.1 billion – a sum cut to $53 million to settle the dispute a year ago.

Only two weeks ago Nigeria backed down again, by dropping a $2 billion tax demand on MTN for allegedly unpaid taxes dating from 2007 to 2017.

In the meeting with MTN’s group and local chairmen, and group and local CEO, this week, the company met not only President Buhari but also two of the people who had been its main opponents, Central Bank governor Godwin Emefiele and Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice.

Federal communications and digital economy minister Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, a computer scientist, also took part.

MTN group chairman Mcebisi Jonas said: “We are steadfast about our investments in Nigeria, particularly over the next three years as we aim to strengthen and expand our network and systems. We are fully aligned with the strategic agenda of the Nigerian government and are committed to strengthening the digital economy of the country.”

Group CEO Rob Shuter said: “Financial inclusion and access to funding and digital services all become easier when our continent is powered by connectivity. The benefits of a connected continent are far reaching, making a positive impact across Africa. We cannot achieve this goal on our own, and are working on strengthening relationships with our key partners to extend access to comprehensive and affordable solutions to all.”