The CEO of MTN in Benin, Stephen Blewett, has been ordered to leave the West African country, the telecommunications group said on Friday.
The move by the Benin government comes a week after it emerged that the telecoms regulator there was claiming US$213m (R3bn) in spectrum fees from the MTN subsidiary.
Arcep, the Benin telecoms regulator, had begun a process to review the reason why MTN’s operation in the country had not paid outstanding spectrum licence fees for 2016 and 2017.
MTN has called the amount sought “excessive”.
The group said on Friday afternoon that Blewett — a former CEO of Altech Autopage Cellular in South Africa — had received “official notification from the government of Benin, requesting him to leave the country by 24 November 2017”.
“The reason cited for this request is Mr Blewett’s engagement in ‘activities detrimental to security and public order’,” MTN said.
“MTN has taken note of the government’s concerns, but refutes these allegations. Mr Blewett will abide with the government’s request and will leave Benin by the date stipulated by local authorities.”
It said last week that although its licence agreement in Benin “prescribes the calculation methodology for frequency fees, it also provides that fees should take into account regional benchmarks, international practices and the local economy”.
“MTN Benin has contested this amount on the basis that, inter alia, the amount is excessive.”
This, it said, had been confirmed by an independent benchmark report commissioned in terms of MTN Benin’s licence.
Benin is a relatively small market for MTN. It has 4.3m subscribers in the country, with each subscriber generating monthly revenue, on average, of $4.99. It is, however, the biggest mobile operator in the country.
“Since commencing his tenure as CEO of MTN in Benin, Mr Blewett has discharged his duties as directed by MTN Group with the utmost integrity and in accordance with the laws of Benin,” MTN said on Friday.
“He has also been an active member of Benin’s community and has formed strong bonds with the people of that country, whose traditions and culture he enjoyed sharing since his arrival in 2015.” — (c) 2017 NewsCentral Media