Official: Nigerian president to decide on $5.2B MTN fine for unregistered cellphone SIM cards

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A Nigerian government spokesman says President Muhammadu Buhari will make the final decision on whether to lower the gigantic $5.2 billion fine meted out to African telecommunications giant MTN.

The fine — analysts say it's the biggest sanction ever meted out to a telecommunications company — was imposed by the Nigerian Communications Commission after MTN failed to deactivate 5.2 million unregistered cellphone SIM cards in August.

It's a matter of national security in Nigeria where law enforcement says cellphones are used by Islamic extremists to detonate bombs and by criminals in kidnappings and armed robberies.

The South African-based company last month appealed to Buhari for leniency. They have been in talks since.

Information Ministry spokesman Tajudeen Kareem confirmed Thursday that Buhari will decide, but he did not say when.