The communication giant, MTN, has paid N80 billion of the N330 billion fine imposed on it by the Nigerian government for failing to deactivate more than five million unregistered SIM cards.
Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, disclosed this at the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, Forum in Abuja.
He said the payment was for this first year and is the first tranche of the total payment.
MTN, Nigeria’s largest mobile operator, was initially fined 5.2 billion dollars (N1.04 trillion) for failing to deactivate more than five million unregistered SIM cards.
The fine on the South Africa-owned company was later reduced to N330 billion.
“For the first year, they paid N80 billion, after paying the initial N50 billion, and they will have to pay for three years until they will complete the N330 billion.
“MTN does not have a choice, when the law was made, it said for every unregistered SIM card in use, the fine is N200, 000, the law never anticipated that one company will be in violation to the tune of millions of lines.
“It was inconceivable, so when the thing was added 200,000 times 5.2 million lines, it came to a trillion plus.
“When it happened, the MTN did four things; one they accepted that they were in default, two, they apologised for that and three they committed themselves never to allow such a thing to happen and number four, they asked for remission.
“Government had to look at a number of factors because if they have to pay this amount; they will pack up.
“We also knew that we invited the international community to come and invest and anything that will be done which will shake the confidence of international investors in Nigerian economy, we must avoid it.
The reduction of the fine was initially condemned by Nigerians leading to an enquiry by the Nigerian parliament.
Mr. Shittu, however, stuck to his guns, insisting the government acted right in the deal.
“We must not throw away the baby with the bath water. If they had packed up and left, let us assume all their staff are not more than 5,000, it means all of those 5,000 will lose their jobs,” he said on Monday.
“Also those who made investment, who bought shares will lose their shares and the Nigeria banking sector would go into crisis.”
The minister said that even in the court system, if one was fined and could not pay for one reason or the other, the person would ask for reconsideration either by way of appeal or bringing a motion.