South African telecoms giant MTN has had its reduced fine for failing to disconnect unregistered users in Nigeria increased by $500 million because of a mistake by the regulator in Abuja.
MTN announced on Thursday that the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) had cut the initial $5.2 billion fine to $3.4 billion after talks with the authorities in Nigeria’s capital.
But the company said on Friday the fine had now been increased to $3.9 billion.
NCC spokesman Tony Ojobo admitted: “There was a typo. The reduction should have been 25 percent.
“We saw the mistake and had to fix it,” he was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.
The company said it was “carefully considering” the letters it has received and that its chairman and acting chief executive Phuthuma Nhleko would hold further talks with the Nigerian authorities.
The amount has to be paid by December 31.
MTN was slapped with the hefty penalty in October after it missed a deadline to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards.
The NCC in early August ordered all mobile phone companies operating in Nigeria to deactivate all unregistered SIM cards within seven days or face severe sanctions.
The directive was made for security reasons, with Nigeria battling Boko Haram Islamists in the northeast as well as criminality, especially kidnapping for ransom.
MTN — Africa’s largest telecoms firm — missed the deadline and was fined 200,000 naira ($1,000) for each of its unregistered users.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is the MTN group’s largest market where it had over 62.8 million subscribers by the second quarter of this year.
MTN operates in 22 countries in Africa and the Middle East.