Lagos — A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos yesterday refused to grant an application seeking to bar MTN Nigeria Communication Limited from emptying IT accounts in 21 commercial banks in the country. Justice Mohammed Idris turned down the application which was filed before the court by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.
The AGF had through his counsel, Dipo Okpeseyi, filed the application to prevent MTN from boycotting the payment of the N1.4 trillion imposed on it last year by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for its failure to deactivate unregistered subscribers. According to the AGF, the application was sequel to the fear that MTN could move all its funds out of the country before the N1.4 trillion fine could be enforced. He prayed the court for an order directing all the 21 banks to open a special interest-yielding account in the name of the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court and move N1.4 trillion out of whatever funds that was standing to MTN's credit in their possession. The application which was supported with a 14-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one Steve Nwabueze, alleged that MTN was in the habit of regularly repatriating its funds out of Nigeria. The deponent noted that between October 2007 and May 2009, a period of 19 months, MTN moved over $7.7 billion of the money made in Nigeria to a foreign account. The affidavit also pointed out that in one day, specifically on February 8, 2008, MTN transferred over $936 million out of Nigeria to accounts in Mauritius, Cayman Island and British Virgin Island. But Justice Idris, in his ruling on the application, noted that the AGF had not shown enough facts to prove that MTN was about to empty its bank accounts and move money out of the country. He, therefore, turned down the application. He also ordered that parties in the suit should maintain the status quo pending the determination of the suit and adjourned till January 22, 2016 for hearing.