South African mobile phone firm MTN Group denied on Sunday that it has asked the Nigerian authorities to be allowed to pay by instalments a $5.2 billion fine due on Monday.
“MTN refutes claims that we have arrived at any agreement of staggered payment of the fine. We caution against information from any source outside the company,” MTN’s spokesman Chris Maroleng said.
Earlier a source at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had said that MTN had asked to be allowed to stagger the payment.
The NCC imposed the fine on MTN last month for its failure to disconnect 5.2 million unregistered SIM cards being used on its Nigerian network.
Nigeria has been pushing telecommunication operators to verify the identity of subscribers due to concerns that unregistered SIM cards are being used for criminal activity or by Boko Haram militants in the northeast.
The source at the NCC had said that Nigeria’s government was considering the request, made at a meeting on Friday between MTN and high-level government officials, and that the decision would be disclosed on Monday.
“At the meeting, MTN pleaded passionately for staggered payment since the option of reduction of the fine had been ruled out,” the NCC source said.
However, a source familiar with the discussions said that an eleventh hour reduction of the fine could still be possible.
“Until the final announcement is made, there may be some room for manoeuvre,” the source familiar with the situation said.
Spokesmen for Nigeria’s presidency and communications ministry declined to comment.