MTN withdraws Nigeria lawsuit, pays $250 million toward fine

LAGOS, Nigeria – South African telecommunications giant MTN says it’s withdrawing its lawsuit in Nigeria and making a “good faith” payment of $250 million to the government as negotiations continue over one of the largest fines ever issued in the industry.

Nigeria’s regulatory agency wants MTN to pay $3.9 billion — negotiated down from $5.2 billion — for failing to deactivate 5.2 million unregistered cellphone SIM cards in a country where it’s considered a national security threat as cellphones are used in extremist attacks and kidnappings.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is leading negotiations for MTN.

An MTN statement Wednesday said the $250 million is being paid to help reach “an amicable settlement” and “will be applied toward a settlement, where one is eventually, hopefully arrived at.”

Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market.