MTN’s troubles in Benin were compounded last week when the group’s CEO for the country was told to leave within days.

Stephen Blewett received an official notification from the government of Benin, dated November 14, requesting him to leave the country by November 24. This was because of Blewett’s alleged engagement in "activities detrimental to security and public order".

MTN said in a statement that while it denied the allegations, Blewett would comply with the order. Declining to provide details about Blewett’s alleged transgressions, the group said he had "discharged his duties as directed by MTN Group with the utmost integrity and in accordance with the laws of Benin.

"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."

Blewett has also worked at Telkom Mobile – formerly 8ta – and Altech Autopage Cellular, where he was MD.

It is understood that the matter is unrelated to the group’s discussions with the government about unpaid fees.

Blewett said last Tuesday that MTN Benin would comply with a deadline set by the country’s telecommunications regulator, Arcep, which has threatened to impose sanctions on the operator due to outstanding fees.

MTN was given until November 17 to submit a response to Arcep about its failure to pay frequency fees for 2016 and 2017, which MTN says are "excessive" at $213m (R3bn).

Benin has shut down other telecommunications operators in recent months, leading analysts to say that a withdrawal of MTN’s licence is a possibility.

Imtiaz Suliman, portfolio manager at Sentio Capital, said MTN’s fee invoices were "very excessive", at three times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation.

MTN generated R4bn in revenue in 2016 in Benin, where it had 4-million subscribers and a 51.6% market share.

"MTN Group wishes to reiterate our unwavering commitment to the people of Benin.... our focus continues to be on delivering the best quality products and services to our customers," it said on Friday.


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