Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday during a joint press conference with South African counterpart Jacob Zuma revealed that South African telecoms giant MTN are in talks with his country’s telecoms regulator to reduce a $3.9b fine.
The fine was imposed on them for failing to disconnect unregistered SIM cards.
President Buhari added that there will be an arrangement for gradual payment.
So far, MTN has paid $250m after dropping a legal case against the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
“MTN had withdrawn their case from the court and decided to go back and renegotiate the fine, which they consider very stiff, with NCC to find ways the fine can be reduced and given time to pay gradually,” Buhari told reporters in the capital, Abuja.
Buhari did not say when talks began and Zuma, who is in Nigeria for a two-day visit, did not comment on the situation.
MTN spokesman Chris Maroleng declined to comment.
The MTN fine is the most recent sign of tension between the two countries that vie for economic and political dominance in Africa. Zuma’s visit points to an attempt to improve diplomatic ties, which have been strained in the last few years.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, is going through its worst economic crisis in years because of the drop in global crude prices, and its central bank has restricted access to dollars in a bid to defend its currency, the naira.
A number of South African companies have said they will exit Nigeria, citing this economic backdrop.