The Ministry of Communications on Friday confirmed it collected N50 billion from MTN Nigeria on behalf of the Federal Government as part payment for the N780 billion fine imposed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
The NCC had in October 2015 sanctioned MTN, one of Nigeria’s largest mobile operator, for failing to disconnect 5.1 million improperly registered lines within a prescribed deadline.
MTN thereafter challenged the fine at the Federal High Court, Lagos, but announced on Wednesday that it was settling out of court with the government.
MTN Nigeria’s Chief Executive Officer, Ferdi Moolman, announced in a statement on Wednesday that the company was withdrawing the case and making a “good faith” payment of N50 billion.
“This is a most encouraging development. It demonstrates a willingness and sincerity by both parties to work together towards a positive outcome,” Mr. Moolman said.
But the decision to settle out of court along with the payment of N50 billion appeared to have been shrouded in secrecy, as the NCC, the regulatory agency at the centre of the issue, saying its management was unaware of the deal.
Hours after Mr. Moolman’s announcement, the Director of Communication, NCC, Tony Ojobo, told PREMIUM TIMES exclusively his Commission was unaware of MTN’s decision to withdraw its court case, and the payment of N50 billion to the Nigerian government.
“We (NCC) are not privy to it (agreement to withdraw a case from court and pay N50 billion by MTN). We do not have anything to do with it. We do not have any evidence of payment of any money to the Nigerian government. There is no invoice to that effect. We have also not gotten any official information or confirmation that they have withdrawn their case in court,” Mr. Ojobo said.
“We have not even met to take a decision like that. There was no discussion whatsoever with NCC on the matter. MTN has not even met with the committee that was set to discuss these issues. We do not know the basis on which they arrived at the N50 billion they claim to have paid. We are just hearing it in the news like every other person” he added.
However, in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Friday, the spokesperson to the Minister of Communications, Victor Oluwadamilare, confirmed the N50 billion was actually received by the ministry on behalf of government.
“I can confirm to you that MTN Nigeria has paid the sum of N50 billion to the federal government as part payment for the fine,” Mr. Oluwadamilare said. “I am sure during the coming week, further negotiations would hold on the matter. MTN wants to negotiate with the federal government. As a listening administration, government is willing to listen.”
He also confirmed that the suit against NCC had been withdrawn by MTN to pave the way for further discussions.