South Africa govt says concerned by MTN fine in Nigeria

By: 
Reuters

South Africa's government is concerned about a $5.2 billion fine imposed by Nigerian authorities on MTN Group but said this would not affect relations between the continent's two biggest economies, a cabinet minister said on Thursday.

Africa's biggest mobile phone company was last week fined by the Nigerian telecoms regulator for failing to cut off users with unregistered SIM cards from it network.

Nigeria - MTN's biggest market - has been pushing all telecom operators to verify the identity of their subscribers, on concerns that unregistered SIM cards were being used for criminal activity in a country facing an insurgency by Islamic militant group Boko Haram.

The Johannesburg-based company was in talks with Nigerian regulators in an attempt to reduce the fine, three sources familiar with the talks said.

"This issue is between MTN and the Nigerian authority. Obviously as government we are concerned about this matter and we do hope the talks between MTN and the Nigerian authorities bear fruit," Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe told reporters during a post-cabinet briefing in parliament.

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma and Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari had not discussed the MTN matter, Radebe said.

The Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) said in October all telecom firms except MTN had complied with the directive which was first issued in August, when it warned of a fine of 200,000 naira ($1,005) per SIM card. MTN failed to disconnect 5.1 million subscribers in August and September, the NCC said.

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