N780bn Fine: NCC, MTN Move Battle To Lagos, Abuja Courts Over Payment

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has dragged MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, Nigeria’s leading mobile operator to an Abuja High Court over its refusal to pay the N780 billion fine for not disconnecting 5.1 million pre-registered lines.
This followed the failure of MTN Nigeria to pay the reduced fine within the stipulated deadline of 31st December 2015. MTN had in early December filed a suit at a Lagos High Court to prevent NCC from enforcing the fine payment until a judgment is by the court.
MTN called the Nigerian government’s bluff and missed the New Year’s Eve deadline to pay the fine. The initial fine of $5.2 billion (N1.04 trillion), was reduced by 25 per cent to N780 billion on December 4, 2015, with a payment deadline but MTN failed to make the payment as at the close of work on December 31st.
Following the MTN suit, initiated on December 17, challenging the power of the regulator to impose the fine and a counter fine filed by the NCC, asking the court to quash the telecoms firm’s prayer, the two parties yesterday came to terms with the fact that the final decision in the case would be taken by the court.
Mr. Tony Ojobo, director, public affairs, NCC who foreign media reports had misquoted as saying that the deadline subsists, said since the two parties have resorted to the courts, the outcome of the two cases will now determine the matter.
“There are two court cases on the matter, the one filed by MTN and NCC counter suit. So, while the deadline has elapsed on December 31st, 2015, we should also be conversant of the fact that we need to wait for the court ruling” Ojobo said.
Also, Victor Oluwadamilare, the spokesman for Communications Minister Adebayo Shittu said that the Nigerian government would not do anything after the 31 December deadline expires.
MTN has said that because the matter is now before court, previous judicial decisions in Nigeria show that neither it nor the Nigerian government can take further action until a ruling has been made. MTN Nigeria’s Head of Public Relations and Protocol, Mr. Funso Aina, said that the rest of the case should be left to court to determine, even as MTN continues to engage with the Nigerian authorities.
He said: “As you know, when a case is in court, there is a limit to the comments that could be made, suffice it to say that based on the lis pendens rule (pending legal action) all parties are enjoined to restrain from taking further action until the matter is finally determined. This is consistent with previous judicial decisions in Nigeria.
“Notwithstanding the lawsuit, we will continue to engage with the Nigerian Authorities to try and ensure an amicable resolution in the best interests of the company, its stakeholders and the Nigerian authorities,” he said.

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