Nigeria has reduced its record MTN fine to $3.4 billion

It all started with SIM cards.
It all started with SIM cards.
Image: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde
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The Nigerian government has agreed to reduce the hefty fine imposed on MTN to $3.4 billion following lengthy negotiations between the two parties. It’s a cut of 35% from the record $5.1 billion fine the Nigerian regulator had originally demanded.

The Nigerian Communications Commission imposed the fine against MTN, the South African-based mobile carrier, in October for failing to adhere to the regulator’s demand for the mobile carrier to disconnect over 5 million unregistered SIM cards from its network.

Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market and the fine has left the company’s entire business reeling. Since the penalty was made public, Africa’s largest mobile carrier has lost over $5 billion in market value and led to the resignation of its chief executive officer Sifiso Dabengwa. MTN shares eased up by just over 1% on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange soon after the news of the reduction broke.

In a separate statement on Thursday, MTN Group announced a far-reaching restructuring of the bulk of its business across Africa and the Middle East, with new regional management being put in place.

The situation in Nigeria, however, continues to claim victims. Among the changes announced is the resignation of  MTN Nigeria CEO Michael Ikpoki who is being replaced by his chief financial officer Ferdi Moolman. Also resigning is the head of regulatory and corporate affairs Akinwale Goodluck. His job will be taken by the company’s head of human resources Amina Oyagbola, who will also retain that position.

At the same the company is still searching for a long-term replacement for Dabengwa.

“This revised structure and strengthened leadership will improve operational oversight and increase management capacity,” Phuthuma Nhleko, who has operated as the company’s interim CEO, said in a statement.

It is not yet clear whether MTN will pay the reduced fine. “The executive chairman Phuthuma Nhleko will immediately and urgently re-engage with the Nigerian Authorities before responding formally,” its statement said. “All factors having a bearing on the situation will be thoroughly and carefully considered before the Company arrives at a final decision.”

MTN has until the end of the month to pay the fine.