MTN on Wednesday withdrew its lawsuit against the Nigerian Communications Commission over N1.04tn ($5.2bn) fine and paid N50bn ($250m) towards a probable settlement.
But the Federal Government said the next line of action would be determined after verifying the MTN’s payment claim.
The telecommunications company said its decision was based on renewed steps towards a negotiated settlement and to create a good atmosphere for further negotiations.
Speaking on the issue, the MTN Nigeria Chief Executive Officer, Ferdi Moolman, said, “This is a most encouraging development. It demonstrates a willingness and sincerity by both parties to work together towards a positive outcome.”
He said the company had paid N50bn to the Federal Government, “as a gesture of good faith and commitment to continued efforts towards an amicable resolution.”
This came about two weeks after the Minister of Communication, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, had told journalists that the Federal Government could consider reducing the fine a second time should MTN show its readiness for amicable settlement by paying a substantial amount of the fine.
“We shall also be open to talks with them (MTN) if it also withdraws its case from court because you cannot say you are seeking for negotiation with the government when you still have a case in court against it,” the minister had said.
According to Punch, a judge in Lagos had in January given both parties up until March 18 to reach a resolution, after MTN had asked the court to arbitrate in the dispute, saying the NCC had no legal grounds to order the fine.
Speaking to our correspondent, the Managing Director of Africa Analysis at MTN, Dobek Pater, said the firm’s withdrawal of the case with a “good faith payment” of $250m (N50bn) was based on renewed steps towards an amicable settlement and to create a conducive atmosphere for further negotiations.
“This is a sign that the fine could be reduced much further. There is some sort of negotiation taking place and the parties are migrating towards a common ground.”
MTN makes 37 per cent of its sales in Nigeria.
Moolman also said, “Our industry in Nigeria is an incredibly important example of the remarkable progress in the Information and Communications Technology sector, particularly as a much-needed catalyst for socio-economic growth and development at this time.”
But the Special Assistant to the Minister of Communications, Mr. Victor Oluwadamidare, said in Abuja on Wednesday that the government had to verify the claim that the company had paid some money.
He said, “Let me say that I am not competent to speak for the Federal Government. You know the people that can speak for the Federal Government and for the Presidency. I can only speak for the minister and for the Ministry of Communications.”