The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says it has issued a November 16, 2015 deadline to MTN Nigeria to pay the N1 trillion penalty it imposed on the mobile operator for failing to disconnect 5.2 million unregistered SIM cards on its network.

Mr. Tony Ojobo, Director, Public Affairs of NCC told the AFP: “The deadline set for the payment of the fine is November 16.” “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.”

Ojobo confirmed however that talks were on-going between the NCC, MTN Nigeria and government officials in Abuja on the issue. On the issue of likely sanctions on MTN, Ojobo said the powers of the NCC under the law 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.”

And on MTN failing to meet the November 16 payment deadline, he 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.” The NCC had issued a directive in August to mobile operators to deactivate all unregistered SIM cards within a period of seven days or face severe penalties.

According to the NCC, MTN Nigeria could not deactivate an estimated 5.2 million unregistered SIM cards on its network within the stipulated seven day deadline. It therefore imposed the N1trillion sanction on the operator to the tune of N200, 000 per each unregistered SIM card.

The fine caused rapid crash of MTN’s shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and raised speculations on the renewal of its GSM licence in 2016 if it fails to pay the fine.