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MTN to pay Nigerian govt R25bn over next 3 years

In October, Nigeria fined the mobile phone operator about R78 billion for failing to disconnect users.

A man walks past a MTN notice board in Lagos, on 27 October 2015. Nigeria's telecommunications regulator has fined South African mobile giant MTN $5.2 billion for missing a deadline to disconnect unregistered SIM cards. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - MTN has agreed to pay a fine of more than US $1,67 billion to settle its dispute with the Nigerian government.

This is about a third of the US$5,2 billion it was originally fined last October.

The settlement - amounting to R25 billion - will be paid over three years.

MTN was given a huge fine after being first warned by the Nigerian government to disconnect unused sim cards last year.

The government argued that these cards were being used by Boko Haram in terror attacks and were difficult to track.

The mobile operator and the Nigerian Communications Commission then indicated they were considering legal action after failing to find common ground.

However, President Jacob Zuma visited the country and there was agreement a while after to continue talks.

The cellphone service provider has agreed to abide by the country's regulations and also begin trading on the Nigerian stock exchange as soon as possible.

Shares in MTN South Africa have risen by more than 17 percent following the announcement.

NIGERIAN PARLIAMENT PROBES WHETHER MTN FINE CAN BE REDUCED

In March, Nigeria's parliament launched a probe into whether the telecoms regulator can reduce the fine.

In December, the telecoms regulator NCC reduced the fine to $3.9 billion, but lawmakers in the lower house of parliament said the original fine could not be altered unless the law was amended.

"For you to adjust the fine, you have to adjust the law, that is where I am finding difficulty," said Yakubu Dogara, speaker of the House of Representatives, according to parliament's minutes seen by Reuters on Thursday.

The house launched a probe after lawmaker Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma asked, in a motion read out by Dogara, for the MTN fine to be more than tripled to $15.6 billion.

Agbonayinma also demanded that MTN face criminal charges, saying the firm's failure to disconnect users SIM cards had led to the death of some 10,000 Nigerians as criminals had used the unregistered cards, according to the motion.

MTN had angered the house by snubbing an invitation to its Nigeria Chief Executive Ferdi Moolman to appear at the telecoms committee, a lawmaker said.

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