Nigeria reveals purported offer to settle huge telecoms fine

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — A Senate committee in Nigeria has released a document that purportedly details an offer of $1.5 billion from African telecommunications giant MTN to settle what is reportedly the largest fine in industry history.

South Africa-based MTN did not confirm or deny the settlement offer in a statement Friday. It said talks were continuing and urged shareholders "not to make decisions based on press reports."

Nigerian regulators last year fined MTN $3.9 billion for having 5.2 million active but unregistered SIM cards. Industry analysts say the fine — negotiated down from $5.2 billion — is by far the largest ever recorded and could scare off investors.

Unregistered SIM cards are considered a matter of national security as they can be used by extremists and criminals. Boko Haram Islamic militants use cell phones to activate bombs and coordinate other attacks, say law enforcers. Mobile phones are also used in armed robberies and kidnappings.

The $1.5 billion settlement offer was released Thursday by the communications committee of Nigeria's Senate, which is holding talks over the dispute. The total includes $250 million MTN offered in February as a "good faith" payment.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is leading negotiations for MTN.

Nigeria is MTN's biggest market.