Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will make a decision on the $5.2bn (£3.3bn) fine issued to South African mobile company MTN. Nigeria's communications ministry said the president will decide in which direction to go.

The record fine was imposed by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) in October after MTN allegedly failed to disconnect non-registered SIM cards within the deadline given. NCC explained the penalty was based on the rate of 200,000 naira (£653) for each of the 5.2 million unregistered cards that should have been disconnected by mid-August.

"The (communications) minister (Adebayo Shittu) said in Lagos that it will be up to the president to determine which direction to go since MTN asked for leniency," ministry spokesman Tajudeen Kareem told Reuters.

The fine is the equivalent of two years of MTN's annual profit. The company shares have plunged since the fine was issued and the company's CEO Sifiso Dabengwa resigned. He justified his decision by saying it would protect the company's interests.

Earlier in November, NCC said it would postpone the deadline for the payment but said the amount would not decrease. MTN originally had until 16 November to pay the amount. The new deadline has not yet been announced.

MTN said in a statement: "Although the NCC set a deadline for payment of the fine by 16 November 2015, shareholders are advised that the Nigerian authorities have, without prejudice, agreed that the imposed fine will not be payable until the negotiations have been concluded."

The fine was applied weeks after mobile networks in Nigeria deactivated 10.7 million unregistered SIM cards, which are often used by criminals and terrorists to communicate. Unregistered cards are also used by terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, which has killed more than 17,000 people in Nigeria and neighbouring countries since 2009.

Other companies fined by the Nigerian government

Nigeria has been imposing financial sanctions on several companies after President Buhari announced his administration would end corruption and malpractice. The government imposed a $15m fine on United Bank for Africa for allegedly failing to transfer government deposits to a single treasury account by 15 September.

Stanbic IBCT Holdings and Guinness Nigeria have also been fined $5m each for respectively filing misleading statements and reusing expired products. Both companies have rejected the claims.