MTN group CEO resigns in the wake of Nigerian scandal

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Mobile operator MTN has announced that group CEO Sifiso Dabengwa has resigned with immediate effect. Former group CEO and non-executive chairman Phutuma Nhleko has been appointed to the role in a

Phuthuma Nhleko

Phuthuma Nhleko

temporary capacity for a maximum period of six months until a permanent replacement for Dabengwa can be found.

“Due to the most unfortunate prevailing circumstances occurring at MTN Nigeria, I, in the interest of the company and its shareholders, have tendered my resignation with immediate effect,” says Dabengwa in a statement issued by the operator on Monday morning.

MTN Nigeria has been hit with a $5.2 billion fine by that countries telecommunications regulator after the operator allegedly failed to disconnect 5.2 million unregistered SIM cards. Nigeria instituted similar regulations to South Africa’s RICA (The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act) and demanded that operators disconnect SIM cards that weren’t registered. MTN allegedly failed to do so, hence the fine.

Nhleko served as non-executive director and chairman of MTN from July 2001 until June 2002 and thereafter as an executive director, group president and CEO until March 2011. He has chaired the group in a non-executive capacity since May 2013.

“I will assume responsibility as executive Chairman for the next six months as I proactively deal with the Nigerian regulator and will continue to work with them in addressing the issues around unregistered subscribers as a matter of urgency,” Nhleko says.

Sifiso Dabengwa

Sifiso Dabengwa

“Together with the MTN Board, my second priority will be to find an appropriate chief executive officer to take MTN forward. I will then revert to my non-executive chairman role,” Nhleko adds.

MTN shares have taken a battering on the JSE in the wake of events in Nigeria, so much so that the bourse temporarily suspended trading in the operator’s shares last week. MTN, meanwhile, says it is in discussions with Nigeria’s regulator about the quantum of the fine.

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