$3.9bn Fine: MTN hires top US attorney to challenge Nigeria

According to reports, MTN Group has hired a former top United States law enforcement official to help challenge a $3.9 billion fine imposed by Nigeria for failing to disconnect unregistered users, the Financial Times reported on Wednesday.

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Citing people familiar with the situation, the newspaper said former US Attorney General Eric Holder pleaded with Nigerian officials last month on behalf of the telecoms company.

Africa’s largest mobile phone company was handed a $5.2 billion penalty in October, prompting weeks of lobbying that led to a 25 percent 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 judge in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, 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.

MTN spokesman Chris Maroleng was not immediately available to comment.

Holder, who led the U.S. Justice Department from 2009 to 2015 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.



  1. This MTN fine issue is turning to a TV drama series. All we have to do is make them a scape goat within the confine of country’s law. MTN has no idea how intellectual educated Nigerians are. Who is a top U.S. Attorney that can save them? I hope that MTN knows that their top U.S. Attorney can never be more familiar and knowledgeable than Nigerians top legal luminaries that made the law. Is MTN dumped or what?Many foreign companies of smaller scale are probably doing the same and getting way with it under the previous government. CHANGE has come to stay in Nigeria.In fact we should be compounding the interest from when it was due for payment. The fine will be judged as Principal plus Interest

  2. MTN, for all I care, is simply wasting its money for nothing. If it likes let it hire 100 US attorneys + 200 Brithish lawyers it must pay that money, this time with the accrued interest from 31/12/2015 to whenever they pay. MTN has obviously not realised that things have CHANGED in the Nigeria! Which is why it fell into this ditch. It thought it was the old regime where it will grease a few palms & it will be asked to go and sin no more. Not anymore, fools!

  3. What we don’t understand as Nigerians is that no law exists that punishes telecoms for not disconnecting users yet to be registered. However the regulator reserves the right to sanction the operator but it’s right as well cannot hamper the solvency or financial ratios of the operator. That is not possible under any law. I believe mtn too is also cautious to jeopardise it’s continued corporate existence in Nigeria considering the high handedness of regulators in Nigeria. The engagement of a U.S. Attorney clearly might be bordered on the fact that the law firm might have previous experience in such issues and which could bring reprieve to the operator. On the flip side I do not understand why our dear Nigerians are calling for Mtn’s head by all means. The mtn lines in question do belong to Nigerians don’t they. Yes some criminals might be using some of the lines but it is not enough that we slam mtn so hard. The current exercise by mtn to get subscribers registered is yielding fruits. So my dear regulator please look for more reasonable means of generating revenue for your benefactor FGN and lets not cheapen ourselves before the world.

    • Dele, you’re one of the Nigerians who don’t know how to think to see things clearly. If the law says you should register every user and you don’t, you have committed an offense. The way things are done in America is different from Nigeria, the problem confronting indoctrinated people is they can’t think outside their master’s doctrine.

      • Clearly Sir I beg to differ. I believe you should think deeper at the charade playing out obviously you are not an mtn subscriber hence your blind sight. I wonder what your position is on N50/n1,000 to be removed by banks due to CBN’s latest regulations. My point remains sanctions are in order but when it impacts on an operators balance sheet that is a total violation.

        • Dele, it’s people like u that are the reason Nigeria is not moving forward! Peddlers of wrong information. Pls the stamp Duty charge is N50/transaction of N1,000 and above,so even if thetransaction is for N1b, you will still be charged N50 only.

  4. Dele well said. Even if FGN is imposing a fine it should be reasonable and not outrageous. It’s time they think through their actions because this same MTN is feeding millions of homes through the employment of millions of Nigerians. Afterall this same government is charging N50 on every deposit in our accounts do the mathematics and see how we are being exploited. Let’s wake up to reality before it’s too late. FGN should look out for other means of revenue asap after all someone said we have smarter heads but I am yet to see the positive impact of those heads on policies. Still watching n listening…

    • nimz, are not aware that its all the telecom mobile operators that met and agreed on the sacntion amount? What NCC is doing is merely asking mtn to comply with the agreement,nothing more!

  5. The simple point is that an instruction was given by a regulatory body which has the statutory right to give such an instruction or regulation if you like. MTN in its own wisdom chose to ignore that regulation and was fined in accordance with the laid down penalty for defaulters. It is ridiculous that they are seeking a legal escape from a clear & deliberate contravention of Government policy. I will advise them to go into dialogue with the NCC on how to pay the fine without it crippling their operations. In fact negotiating for a reduction of the fine in the first place was a clear admission of responsibility for the offence.

  6. The fine is the sanction for the numerous lives of Nigerians that were lost to criminals and terrorists like Boko haram who used these unregistered lines to successfully carry out their evil enterprise against the lives of Nigerians; it was for the purpose of securing lives that the act was mandated but I guess mtn cared less about the lives of Nigerians than the millions they made every day from these same Nigerians. Until they are charged to ICC, then they would realise the gravity of how they aided criminals & terrorists to kill thousands of Nigerians every by this criminal action

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