MTN in talks with Nigeria regulator to cut $3.9 billion fine and plan payment: Buhari

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 08, 2016 7:35 AM

ABUJA (Reuters) - South African telecoms company MTN is in talks with Nigeria's telecoms regulator to reduce a $3.9 billion fine for failing to disconnect unregistered sim cards, and to arrange gradual payment, President Muhammadu Buhari said on Tuesday.

The Nigerian president made the comment at a joint news conference with his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma at the start of a two-day visit by Zuma.

The South African company has so far paid $250 million after dropping a legal case against the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

"MTN had withdrawn their case from the court and decided to go back and renegotiate the fine, which they consider very stiff, with NCC to find ways the fine can be reduced and given time to pay gradually," Buhari told reporters in the capital, Abuja.

Buhari did not say when talks began and Zuma did not comment on the situation. MTN spokesman Chris Maroleng declined to comment.

The MTN fine is the most recent sign of tension between the two countries that vie for economic and political dominance in Africa. Zuma's visit points to an attempt to improve diplomatic ties, which have been strained in the last few years.

Nigeria, Africa's biggest oil producer, is going through its worst economic crisis in years because of the drop in global crude prices, and its central bank has restricted access to dollars in a bid to defend its currency, the naira.

A number of South African companies have said they will exit Nigeria, citing this economic backdrop.

(Reporting by Felix Onuha; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)