$3.9b Fine: MTN Hires Former US Attorney

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Telecommunications giant  MTN has hired a former United States Attorney General Eric Holder to help challenge the $3.9 billion fine imposed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for failing to disconnect unregistered users.

Holder, the immediate past U.S. top law officer, pleaded with the NCC last month on behalf of the telecoms company.

Holder, who led the US Justice Department from 2009 to2015 and was one of President Barack Obama’s longest-serving cabinet members, returned to law firm, Covington & Burling, where he was previously a partner from 2001 to 2009.

Africa’s largest mobile phone company was handed a $5.2billion penalty last October, prompting weeks of lobbying that led to a 25 per cent reduction to $3.9 billion.

MTN, however, was still not prepared to pay the fine and launched a court challenge in December, saying the Nigerian telecoms regulator had no legal grounds to order the penalty.

A Federal High Court judge sitting in Lagos last month gave MTN until March 18 to try to reach a settlement over the fine, which equates to more than twice MTN’s annual average capital spending over the past five years.

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MTN had in December 2015 filed the suit through its lawyers led by Wole Olanipekun (SAN), arguing that the NCC being a regulator, cannot assume all the functions of the state on its own, considering the fact that they made the regulation, prescribed the penalty and imposed the fine, which is payable to the commission and not the Federal Government.

The telecommunication company also claimed that it was not afforded its constitutional right of fair hearing before a court of competent jurisdiction and more importantly, it had not been found guilty of any offence that will warrant it to pay such an outrageous fine.

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