Nigeria's telecoms regulator said Thursday it has set a November 16 deadline for South African mobile giant MTN to pay a $5.2 billion fine for failing to disconnect unregistered SIM cards.
"The deadline set for the payment of the fine is November 16," Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) spokesman Tony Ojobo told AFP.
"The key issue is if MTN breached the law or not. Certainly, there was a breach. And if there is a breach, we will apply the law."
Early in August the NCC issued a directive to mobile telecoms companies operating in Nigeria to deactivate all unregistered SIM cards within seven days or face severe sanctions.
MTN -- Africa's largest telecoms firm -- missed the deadline to deactivate its 5.1 million unregistered subscribers, prompting a 200,000-naira ($1,000) fine for each unregistered SIM.
The penalty saw the company's shares crash on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and raised questions about the renewal of its licence in Nigeria next year if the fine goes unpaid.
MTN had more than 62.8 million subscribers in Nigeria by the second quarter of this year.
Senior officials of the Nigerian government, the NCC and MTN began talks in Abuja on Thursday to thrash out a solution to the matter, Ojobo confirmed.
But he did not specify what precise sanctions MTN could face.
Under the law, the NCC's powers include "granting or revoking of permits for connection of customer equipment" and "determination of services and new undertakings eligible for licensing from time to time".
On what would happen if MTN failed to meet the deadline, Ojobo said: "When we get to the bridge, we will know how to cross it. The deadline set for the payment of the fine is November 16."
"If the situation will change in any way, then the government at the top will have to so direct. But for now, the mood is to apply the law."
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