N1.04trn: FG Tells MTN To Withdraw Court Case
Federal Government said MTN Nigeria should withdraw the suit it instituted at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos against the Nigerian Communications Commission and the federal government if it wants an out-of-court settlement for the N1.04 trillion fine for not deactivating 5.1 million unregistered subscribers.
Minister of Communications Technology, Barrister Adebayo Shittu said it is a pre-condition for discussion on the fine for the mobile operator listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). MTN makes about 37 percent of its revenue from Nigeria.
According to news agency, Reuters, “I’m not aware of any out-of-the-court settlement,” telecoms minister Adebayo Shittu told reporters. He said President Muhammadu Buhari will have the final decision on the matter, adding that MTN might be advised to withdraw the court case filed against the fine.
“If they withdraw it creates a better environment, an environment where there is no stress or pressure on either side,” he said. Last week Friday, MTN sought for 60 days leave from the Presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, to discuss with NCC for an out-of-court settlement which was granted by the judge.
MTN had in December 2015 filed the suit through it lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) arguing that the NCC being a regulator, cannot assume all the functions of the state on its own, considering the fact that they made the regulation, prescribed the penalty and imposed the fine, payable to the commission and not the federal government.
MTN had also claimed that it was not afforded its constitutional right of fair hearing before a court of competent jurisdiction and more importantly, it had not been found guilty of any offence that will warrant it to pay such outrageous fine.
Following the request by MTN, the Presiding Judge subsequently adjourned the matter till March 18, this year, when the two parties are expected to come back with their mutually-agreed decision on the matter.
MTN in a statement issued from its headquarters in South Africa said “The judge adjourned the matter to 18 March 2016 in order to enable the parties to try and settle the matter. If the parties are unable to reach a settlement the matter will then proceed on that date.”
In November 2015, after negotiations with Nigerian authorities, the fine was reduced by 25 per cent to ₦780 billion. However, MTN opted to take the matter to court in Lagos, thereby missing a 31 December deadline imposed by the Nigerian government.