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Will SA govt intervene in MTN's Nigeria crisis?

Nigeria , 12 Sep 2018

Will SA govt intervene in MTN's Nigeria crisis?

The South African government is prepared to intervene in the MTN Nigeria crisis if requested to do so.

Speaking at ITU World 2018 in Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal this week, SA's Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Siyabonga Cwele said, "If they need our help, we will get in touch with our counterpart in Nigeria, but at this level they did not ask for our intervention. We are waiting for their call."

It would not be the first time the SA government has intervened in the company's operations in Nigeria.

In March 2016, ITWeb Africa reported the US$ 5.2 billion fine slammed on MTN by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) was the focus of a meeting between Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari, and his former South African counterpart Jacob Zuma who visited Nigeria's capital city of Abuja.

Following the intervention, Nigeria reduced the fine imposed to US$1.65 billion.

Disagreement with CBN

The Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) has also revealed its position regarding the dispute between MTN and Nigerian regulators, including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

In a statement, ATCON declared the finance sector regulator does not have the power to order MTN Nigeria to refund US$8.1billion it repatriated out of Nigeria.

President of ATCON, Olusola Teniola, said CBN does not have regulatory oversight over MTN, while the money does not belong to CBN either.

The organisation called for clarity, transparency and continued dialogue among all parties to allay the fears of potential investors.

"A refund is very unlikely. The size of the demand and timing is unreasonable and not in the interest of the country. After all, the Naira equivalent will have to be returned to MTN Nigeria. It is then an interesting situation that this seeks to redress events that occurred when CBN had full oversight and approved the transactions. How do they intend to do that?" Teniola said.

"This I believe is a matter that should be in between the banks and CBN and not the client of the banks. NCC may decide to intervene if events unfold that threaten the survival of MTN and the telecom industry that they regulate. For now, it is too early to see which way this will take."

In Durban, MTN Group's CEO Rob Shuter refused to comment on the ongoing dispute.

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