MTN, CBN dispute will be over soon—NCC

NCC Headquarters used to illustrate the story.
NCC Headquarters used to illustrate the story.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has assured that the dispute between South African telecoms giant, MTN, and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was being resolved and would soon be over.

Speaking with journalists at a breakfast meeting on Thursday in Abuja, the Vice Chairman of NCC, Umar Danbatta, said the issue was being resolved amicably and expressed the hope that the issue will be over “as soon as possible.

According to Mr Danbatta, “$8.13 billion is a CBN issue, another regulator, I heard reliably that this will also be amicably settled because what affects MTN will have serious consequences for the telecommunication sector.”

He said the Nigeria government was disposed to an amicable resolution of the matter, saying the government is flexible on the issue.

”Government is always disposed to finding amicable resolutions to issues of this nature, showing flexibility to the resolution of issues of this magnitude, issues that will bear on the economy.”

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on August 29 sanctioned MTN Nigeria Communications Limited and four commercial banks for alleged financial infractions and demanded a refund of about $8.13 billion (about N2.5trillion at N306.15 to $1) allegedly repatriated illegally out of Nigeria.

But on August 30, MTN rejected the directive in a statement, insisting it was not guilty of any wrongdoing. On September 10, MTN filed a suit at the Federal High Court, Lagos against the CBN to contest the sanction. Hearing of the case was later adjourned to December 4.

Later on November 14, MTN announced it had opted for an out of court settlement.

Earlier, the MTN group was sanctioned with a $5.2 billion fine by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the NCC in October 2015.

The telecom regulator imposed the fine (N1.04 trillion) on MTN Nigeria for not complying with government’s rule on deactivation of unregistered SIM cards. MTN was sanctioned for not disconnecting about 5.1 million improperly registered lines in its network by the stipulated deadline.

After several appeals and negotiations including diplomatic intervention by the South African government, a settlement agreement reduced the fine to N330 billion. MTN Nigeria has since paid N165billion, which is about 50 percent of the fine, to the government.

Mr Danbatta confirmed on Thursday that MTN will pay the second tranche of the fine this month.

The NCC director of public affair, Nnamdi Nwokike, confirmed that MTN was cooperating with the government. ”So far, they are meeting up with expectation,” he said.

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