Nigerian regulators slap fines on international companies, extends deadline for MTN

LAGOS, Nigeria – Nigerian regulators are slapping international companies with large fines, as the government looks for more revenue while pursuing President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption drive.

The biggest penalty has been the $5.2 billion fine to Africa’s biggest telecommunications company MTN. Nigeria has indefinitely extended its Monday deadline for MTN to pay the fine pending negotiations, the company announced.

United Bank for Africa PLC confirmed it is being fined $15 million for failing to transfer deposits of government institutions to a single treasury account by the Sept. 15 deadline ordered by Buhari.

Stanbic IBCT Holdings PLC and Guinness Nigeria PLC are contesting fines of $5 million each.

Brewer Guinness has denied wrongdoing over a fine from the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, for allegedly re-validating expired products and exposing raw materials to rats.

Stanbic has filed suit against the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria over the fine and the suspension of its CEO and its chairman. The bank denies it filed misleading financial statements and misclassified payments for software and management services to its parent company, Standard Bank of South Africa.

A statement from South African-based MTN Group said its fine will not be paid until negotiations end with the Nigerian Communications Commission.

MTN shares have slumped since the fine was announced earlier this month. MTN CEO Sifiso Dabengwa resigned last week over the penalty for failing to meet a deadline to deactivate 5.2 million unregistered cellphone SIM cards.

Despite the furor, the regulator this month extended MTN Nigeria’s operating license until 2021 for $94.2 million. Nigeria is the group’s most lucrative subsidiary.

The $5.2 billion equals nearly a quarter the national budget of Nigeria as Africa’s biggest oil producer is hammered by slumped petroleum prices.