South African telecoms company, MTN, is negotiating with the Nigerian government for a possible reduction of a N780 billion fine imposed on the firm, President Muhammadu Buhari said Tuesday.
At a joint news conference with South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, who is on official visit to Nigeria, Mr. Buhari said the talks could also agree on a payment schedule.
The fine, imposed by the Nigeria Communications Commission in October 2015, has been a subject of controversy for months. The commission initially asked MTN to pay N1.04 trillion for failing to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered subscribers, but later reviewed the sum to N780 billion.
The telecoms company has yet to pay the fine. In January, MTN took legal action, challenging the powers of NCC to issue the fine.
After missing repeated deadlines for payment, MTN announced late February it had paid N50 billion in “good faith” towards and amicable resolution of the matter. The company also announced the withdrawal of its lawsuit.
In his first public comment on the matter, President Buhari said Nigeria was not concerned about the money, but the security implication of MTN’s failure to disconnect unregistered lines.
He said the company chose to go to court rather than negotiate with the authorities.
“MTN had withdrawn their case from the court and decided to go back and renegotiate the fine, which they consider very stiff, with NCC to find ways the fine can be reduced and given time to pay gradually,” Mr. Buhari said.