MTN Nigeria reportedly said it will not pay “a dime or penny” of the $3.9 billion fine imposed by the country’s regulator, revealing it could exit the market over the issue.
A “top” MTN official told Nigerian newspaper Business Journal that the company has two strategies to avoid paying the hefty fine, imposed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in October for its failure to cut off unregistered SIM cards from its network in the country.
The fine, which originally stood at $5.2 billion, was cut by 25 per cent after lengthy negotiations, but MTN was still not satisfied, and said in December it would take the issue to court.
The unnamed insider said the company has instructed seven high lawyers that are handling the case “to keep the matter perpetually in court, up to the supreme court”, until the current Nigerian government and NCC leadership leaves office.
He added that the company “can keep the case in court beyond 10 years”, even if both parties secure a second term.
In a situation which threatens to turn even uglier, the official also said it would not be able to pay the fine without going bankrupt in the country, insisting that NCC had imposed the fine in bad faith, which could lead to its exit in the country.
“Our second strategy is to leave the Nigerian market entirely and expand into other territories in Africa and probably, the Middle East, to cushion the expected revenue gap from Nigeria.”
The seriousness of MTN’s threats to exit a market where it operates as market leader, with more than 65 million connections, is, however, questionable.
Amid the controversy, the company renewed its operating licence up to 2021, and also announced plans to acquire CDMA provider Visafone to boost its mobile data and broadband offering in the country, earlier this month.