An employee passes an illuminated MTN logo on display inside an MTN Group Ltd. telecommunications store in the Hyde Park district of Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg
An employee passes an illuminated MTN logo on display inside an MTN Group Ltd. telecommunications store in the Hyde Park district of Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

MTN in reshuffle of its troubled Nigerian market

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Oct 27, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - MTN has rung the changes in its troubled Nigeria market, appointing Karl Toriola as chief executive and moving the incumbent Ferdi Moolman back to South Africa as the group’s new chief risk officer from March next year.

The move was widely seen as yet another attempt by the company to contain the mounting fallout with the authorities in West Africa amid a complex regulatory environment across its footprint.

Moolman was one of the key people who helped to negotiate a multibillion-dollar fine with Nigeria, along with former chief executive and chairperson Phutuma Nhleko, while Toriola was the group’s president for the West and Central Africa region.

MTN said Moolman’s tenure in Nigeria was characterised by significant progress in stabilising the business and setting it on a sustainable growth path.

Group chief executive Ralph Mupita said Moolman had been an exemplary leader of MTN Nigeria and had put the business on a sound growth platform for the future.

“He brings significant strategic, financial and operational experience to the new group risk role, where we want to ensure that our enterprise-wide risk management systems are continuously strengthened and remain resilient as we drive our growth strategy,” Mupita said.

MTN said Toriola had overseen the steady progress of the companies in the region, notably the turnaround of MTN Ivory Coast and MTN Cameroon, over the past two years.

Moolman is expected to remain on the board of MTN Nigeria and would in due course be appointed to other material subsidiary boards given his new group responsibility.

He joined MTN Nigeria shortly after the company was slapped with a $5.2billion (R84.15bn) fine by the Nigerian Communications Commission for failing to meet a deadline to disconnect 5million unregistered users from its network.

The fine was reduced to about $1bn after negotiations.

Last May, MTN Nigeria listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange to become that country’s second most capitalised stock after Dangote cement. The listing was a part of the terms for the reduction for the fine.

In 2018, MTN settled its $8.1bn repatriation matter with the Nigerian central bank, with a payment of $53million without admitting to guilt.

The Central Bank of Nigeria had ordered its lenders to bring back a total of $8.1bn it alleged the company had illegally repatriated using improperly issued paperwork between 2007 and 2008. In January, the attorney-general of the Federal Republic of Nigeria withdrew a demand for $2bn as a claim for back taxes from MTN Nigeria and referred the matter to the tax and customs authorities.

MTN is also facing new allegations of helping militant groups in Afghanistan, including paying protection money. Last year, a complaint for violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act was filed on behalf of US soldiers killed or wounded in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2017.

MTN is among the six groups named.

The group has said it continued to review the publicly available report and intends to defend its position if necessary.

In a move to manage regulatory risks, MTN last May established an International Advisory Board chaired by former President Thabo Mbeki to guide the board in navigating complex geopolitical issues.

MTN shares closed 0.82percent lower at R57.06 on the JSE yesterday.

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