The Federal Government expects the payment of N55 billion, representing the final balance of SIM registration fine, to be made by MTN Nigeria PLC on Friday, some top officials have said.
The fine, initially put at N1.04tn before it was reduced to N330bn, landed on MTN's back in October, 2015, when Nigeria's biggest telecom operator flouted some of the country's SIM registration rules.
Yesterday, some top officials of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Ministry of Communications and MTN Nigeria told Daily Trust that the N55bn final tranche of the N330bn fine would be paid before the close of work on Friday.
They confirmed separately to our reporter that all arrangements for the final payment had been concluded last week.
Daily Trust reports that in line with the staggered payment arrangement for N330bn fine, MTN has, so far, paid N275bn to the Federal Government (FG).
What this means, according to the staggered arrangement, is that Friday, May 31, 2019, would be the deadline for the telecom company to pay the sixth and final tranche of the balance of N55bn.
It would be recalled that after six months of negotiation and re-negotiation over the fine which led to the reduction to N330bn, it was agreed that MTN would pay a balance of N280bn in six tranches. This was in addition to the "goodwill" payment of N50bn earlier made by MTN to the government.
Specifically, MTN began the payment structure with the payment of N30bn into NCC's Treasury Single Account (TSA) with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) 30 days from the date of the agreement dated June 10, 2016.
Subsequently, MTN paid N30bon on March 31, 2017; N55bn on March 31, 2018; N55bn on December 31, 2018, and on March 31, it paid N55bn.
The balance and final tranche of the payment will be paid by May 31, 2019, in line with the staggered payments structure agreed by MTN and Nigerian government.
The NCC on October 20, 2015, imposed a fine of N1.04tn on MTN for infraction of the provision of the NCC Telephone Subscribers Registration Regulations 2011; for failure to disconnect 5.2 million improperly-registered Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) lines within the prescribed deadline, because these lines had economic activities on them without proper registration.
In agreement reached by the parties involved in a way to avoid decision likely to cripple business interest of the operators the Commission regulates, it was also agreed that MTN shall apologise to Nigerians, subscribe to the compulsory observance of Code of Corporate Governance for Telecoms Industry; as well as undertake immediate steps to ensure its listing on the NSE.
Speaking on the state of MTN fine payment at the valedictory service organised for the Minister of Communications, Barr. Adebayo Shittu in Abuja last week, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said the Commission had succeeded in empowering Nigerians "to control, manage and own telecommunications companies in Nigeria by owning shares in MTN Nigeria."