MTN Nigeria is seeking an out of court settlement over the $5.2 billion fine the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) imposed on it last year for failing to deactivate 5.1 billion unregistered phone lines.
MTN had initially dragged FG to court over the fine, arguing that it was outrageous. The Federal government had reduced the fine to N780 billion after the company complained.
At a resumed hearing of the suit at the Fedral High Court Ikoyi today January 22nd, the lead counsel for MTN, Wole Olanipekun, told the presiding judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, that they have considered to settle out of court with the Federal government.
Following the request by MTN, the presiding judge adjourned the case to March 18, 2016 hoping that both parties would have reached an agreement before then.
Recalled that A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos recently ordered NCC and MTN to maintain status quo in order to ensure that the telecom operator do not empty its accounts in 21 commercial banks in Nigeria.
The move is aimed that ensuring that MTN has enough cash at its disposal to pay $5.2 billion fine in case the outcome of the court is such that MTN must pay that fine.
This is following an injunction by the Attorney General of the Federation, seeking to bar MTN Nigeria from emptying it account.
Trial judge, Justice Idris Mohammed, ordered parties to maintain status quo ante bellum pending the determination of the suit and adjourned till January 22, 2016 for hearing.
The AGF and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, who filed the application, had expressed the fear that MTN could move all its funds out of the country before the N1.04tn fine could be enforced.
“Unless this court urgently entertains this application, the plaintiff/respondent would move its funds out of Nigeria, being the jurisdiction of this honourable court, and thereby frustrate the enforcement of the fine in the likely event that this honourable court sanctions the imposition of the fine.’’
Though the court did not expressly grant the application, it has, meanwhile by the status quo order, prevented MTN from moving funds from the accounts in the 21 commercial banks in Nigeria outside the country.
The fine was imposed on MTN by NCC over its failure to deactivate its unregistered subscribers.