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Zuma to meet Buhari over MTN fine


President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma

President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma

• Firm votes $600m for settlement
• May be listed on Stock Exchange

To rescue its operations in Nigeria after N1.04 trillion fine slashed to $3.9 billion for contravening established regulations, MTN has set aside N118.2 billion ($600 million or R9287 million) for payment towards resolving the matter.

MTN, which expressed the hope that the penalty would be reduced further stated that the earlier N50 billion paid is included in the planned N118.2 billion settlement.

The telecommunications firm said that the R9287 million set aside is in accordance with the Principle of Prudence in generally accepted accounting standards, which requires that reasonable provisions be made for contingent liabilities.

The firm said discussions with the Nigerian authorities are still ongoing and stakeholders would be advised accordingly when a settlement is reached.

Reuters reported that the telecommunications firm might list its Nigerian unit on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) in Lagos, once it has resolved the disputed N780 billion fine with authorities in Nigeria, citing MTN’s Executive Chairman, Phuthuma Nhleko, as its source.

Meanwhile, South Africa President, Jacob Zuma, is billed to visit Nigeria next week for talks with President Muhammadu Buhari on the MTN fine and other economic issues, according to details of an itinerary at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

Despite last week’s payment of N50bn as part of the fine by MTN Nigeria in “good faith,” and withdrawal of a lawsuit it instituted against the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Communications Minister, Adebayo Shittu said he could not say if the company would get any further reprieve from the government.

He said only Buhari would make the final decision on any settlement over the penalty, adding that “It is within his power and jurisdiction to do that if he feels that it will be in the interests of Nigeria to so do.

“It is now for the government to meet with them and conclude negotiations. The final decision rests solely with President Buhari.”

MTN Nigeria declined commenting on the development. But officials at the MTN Group office in South Africa said, on condition of anonymity, that the telecoms company could head back to court if the government fails to reduce the N780bn fine.

“The MTN Group is looking in the way of Ahmed Joda, the ex-Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Nigerian Communications Commission, to get the government to significantly reduce the fine. We may resume the lawsuit if no deal with the Nigerian government sails through,” one of the officials said.

In another development, A Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday held that MTN Nigeria and its Chief Executive Officer, Ferdi Moolman, must face trial over alleged copyright infringements, notwithstanding settlement with a complainant.

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