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Senate Exposes MTN’s N300bn Proposal as Settlement for Fine

Tope Oshin

The Senate Committee on Communications Thursday revealed that MTN Communications Nigeria Limited has proposed to pay N300 billion ($1.5 billion) in the ongoing negotiations between the company and Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), on the N780 billion fine imposed on the network operator by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), ThisDay reports.

The industry regulator imposed a N1.04 trillion fine on MTN last October for failing to disconnect 5.2 million unregistered subscribers on its network, but later reduced it to N780 billion and gave the network provider till December 31, 2015 to pay up after it had appealed for leniency.

But before the deadline, MTN sued the federal government challenging the power of the federal government and NCC to impose the fine.

Last month, it withdrew the case and paid N50 billion as a gesture of good faith towards the settlement of the fine.

The penitence exhibited by MTN paved the way for negotiations with the federal government led by Malami and the South African-owned firm led by former US Attorney General, Mr. Eric Holder.

At an investigative hearing held yesterday by the Senate committee in the National Assembly, vice chairman of the committee, Senator Adeola Olamilekan (Lagos West) brandished a proposal acknowledged by the Solicitor General of the Federation, Taiwo Abiodun, from MTN wherein the network provider insisted that it could only pay N300 billion.

A breakdown of the proposal which was forwarded to the Ministers of Communications and Finance by the solicitor general as well as NCC executive vice chairman, Prof. Umar Dambatta include the N50 billion already paid by MTN into a recovery account of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and another N100 billion to be paid via electronic transfer between December 31, 2016 and December 31, 2020.

The proposal also includes another N80 billion proposed payment by MTN as a demonstration of its commitment to and confidence in the Nigerian economy and will be subject to necessary regulatory approvals,

This would come by way of MTN Nigeria committing to purchase N80 billion of Nigerian sovereign debt issued on the international market in 2016-2017.

The last tranche of N70 billion which the network provider proposed will be through the provision of broadband access to the Federal Government of Nigeria (subject to excess capacity on the company’s fibre network) for the purpose of the government’s e-initiatives (e.g. visa processing, public service, connecting schools, registration, etc.).

If accepted, the broadband access valued at N70 billion will commence from the date of the execution of the agreement between the federal government and MTN to December 31, 2020.

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