$5.2bn Fine: FG Insists On Payment As Uncertainty Grip Staffs Of MTN Nigeria

NCC-MTNThe Nigerian government seems not to be moved by the resignation of the CEO of MTN Group, Sifiso Dabengwa on Monday over a $5.2 billion fine imposed on the company by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for failing to cut off subscribers with unregistered SIM cards, as it has insisted on the fine being paid on or before November 16.

A senior federal official, who spoke under the condition of anonymity to reporters yesterday in Abuja disclosed that “The MTN Group delegation met with the Chief of Staff to the President, Malam Abba Kyari and he told them they must pay the fine”.

The South Africa based MTN Group in a statement yesterday, said its former CEO, Phuthuma Nhleko would take charge for six months in acting capacity after which a substantive CEO will be appointed.

Analysts, who have been reacting to the hefty fine imposed on MTN, agree the development would make multinational companies doing business in Nigeria to sit up.

Of particular interest is the statement by telecoms analyst and presenter, Tech Trends on Channels Television, Fred Agbata Jr., who said “This will make them know that it is not business as usual”.

MTN said it was continuing talks with the authorities in Nigeria over the fine. But an NCC official insisted that the federal government is only interested in seeing the fine paid.

“The November 16 deadline still stands. No concession, the government is only interested in seeing $5.2bn paid by MTN”, the NCC official, who pleaded anonymity, told Daily Trust.

Meanwhile, there are fears the fine may lead to job loss in Nigeria as the resignation of Mr. Dabengwa is only seen as a tip of the iceberg of what is to come.

Yesterday, MTN’s largest shareholder, South Africa’s Public Investment Corporation (PIC), said it wanted to meet with the new acting CEO about his plans to tackle the fine and wants more staff at MTN to take responsibility for the penalty.

“A lot more people need to take collective responsibility for the fine… for the alleged failure to comply with regulatory requirements”, the PIC’s chief executive Daniel Matjila said in a statement.

The statement has been interpreted to mean the current crisis may sweep away some of MTN Nigeria’s top management staff especially the country’s CEO, Michael Ikpoki as well as some other officials.

Other staff are also said to be on the edge because of the implications of the fine of MTN businesses in Nigeria should they go ahead to pay the sanction.