President Muhammadu Buhari has okayed the payment of N500 million to the team of external lawyers who compelled telecommunications giant, MTN to agree to pay the N330 billion fine slammed on it in 2015 for SIM registration breaches.
Recall that the legal battle instituted by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) against MTN has seen the corporation paying at least N165 billion out of a total of N330 billion fine.
Abubakar Malami, attorney general of the Federation and minister of Justice in justifying the payments, said it represented a fair deal and amounted to less than 1percent of the entire fine slammed on the company for which it agreed to pay.
Malami said, “MTN as you will recall, instituted a case seeking to retrain the federal government from recovering the over N1 trillion imposed on it.
“The federal government engaged the services of lawyers to put up defence on its behalf as a result the case was eventually settled by the parties amicably and arising from that settlement the lawyers were entitled to their fees.
“The federal government has now sanctioned the payment of N500 million for the N330 billion agreed upon for the alleged certain breaches in their operations. This amount is less than one percent of the fee instead of the internationally recognized fee which is pegged at 5%.
MTN Nigeria was originally fined $5.2bn for failing to deactivate more than five million unregistered SIM cards, but the fine was reduced in a settlement that paved the way for MTN to list its subsidiary on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE).
MTN, which operates in 20 countries, had set aside $600m to pay the fine. Two months after making the first payment from the fine, MTN Group declared its first full-year loss, blaming it on the fine.
Negotiations on the payment of the fine lasted months, which saw both parties going in and out of courts.