MTN seeks out of court settlement in Nigeria over $3.9 billion fine

MTN Vs Nigeria Communications Commission

MTN Nigeria has indicated it’s willingness to pursue an out of court settlement over its fine of $3.9 billion. On resumption of proceedings today at a Federal high court sitting in Lagos South West Nigeria; in a case that MTN instituted against the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) over  the fine imposed on it for failure to deactivate unregistered subscribers,  MTN’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), pleaded with the presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, to give parties 60 days to explore the option of settlement out of court.

While reacting to MTN’s plea, Mr. Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN), the lawyer representing the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), argued that the  parties had been finding it very difficult to settle out of court.‬ He said that the telecommunication company has not been consistent in its call for an out of court settlement of the matter.‬

He urged the court to take it that all the court papers in the matter had been properly filed and served and that the case was still ongoing. “This is a matter of national importance. There have been concessions in the past and nothing happened,” Okpeseyi stressed.

Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta is the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of the Nigerian Communications Commission.

Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta is the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of the Nigerian Communications Commission.

In his own reaction, counsel for the NCC, Mr. Yusuf Alli (SAN), argued that the maximum period allowed by the court rules was 21 days for parties to file and serve written addresses.

After entertaining arguments from all parties, Justice Idris adjourned till March 18 for report of settlement or for hearing in the case.

The judge also held that all processes filed shall be deemed as properly filed and served. He also affirmed that all  preliminary objections and substantive application shall be taken together on the adjourned date if need be.

It will be recalled that earlier on January 12, 2016 fearing that MTN could move all its funds out of the country before the $3.9 billion fine could be enforced, the AGF had approached Justice Idris with an application for a mareva injunction to bar MTN from emptying its accounts in 21 commercial banks in Nigeria, in order not to boycott the fine.

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Acting Group CEO MTN, Phuthuma Nhleko

But in refusing the application, Justice Idris said that the AGF did not place enough material fact before the court to prove that MTN was making any moves to repatriate all its funds out of Nigeria.

Since the commencement of the imbroglio, MTN has changed its leadership in Nigeria with a new CEO Mr Ferdi Moolman replacing Mr Mike Ikpoki. The saga also consumed the then group CEO, Mr Sifiso Dabengwa who was replaced by Phuthuma Nhleko

As the drama continues to unfold, analysts believe that the NCC will be coming up with more stringent regulatory policies to curb the excesses of the telecoms operators.

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