MTN Benin embroiled in non-payment of $213m frequency fees

South African telecoms giant MTN Group said on Thursday Benin’s regulator was reviewing its local unit’s reasons for not paying $213 million in frequency fees for 2016 and 2017.

MTN Benin had contested the size of the fees, saying they were excessive, the company said.

MTN’s fine headache in next door Nigeria has made news headlines for better part of last year into this year.

They were initially hit with a $5.2 bn fine in October 2015 by the Nigerian regulator for failure to cut off 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards as requested by the government.

Security was cited as being behind the move, over fears that Boko Haram insurgents were using unregistered SIMs to plan and execute attacks in the remote northeast.

In December 2015, the fine was reduced to $3.4 billion, then cut further in June last year to $1.7 billion, which at the time was equivalent to 330 billion naira. The payment is staggered over three years.

In March this year, MTN said it had paid nearly $100m of the $1.7 bn fine. “MTN has paid N30bn ($98m, 92 million euros) as part of the fine,” Tony Ojobo, spokesman for Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) said.

“The payment is in furtherance of the agreed timetable for payment of the total fine.” He said MTN had already paid N80bn of the total fine of N330bn.

Ojobo said MTN was expected to pay the next tranche of the fine “based on the payment schedule agreed by the two parties.”