Nigeria: MTN Goes to Court Over U.S.$10.1 Billion Nigeria Sanctions

MTN Nigeria.
10 September 2018

MTN Nigeria says it has asked a Federal High court in Lagos to restrain the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Attorney-General of the Federation from taking further actions in respect of the demand that the mobile telcoms company refunds amounts totalling $10.134 billion to Nigeria.

A fortnight ago, the CBN announced it wrote the firm to refund about $8.134 billion (about N2.5trillion at N306.15 to $) repatriated illegally out of Nigeria.

On the other hand, the AGF had a few days after the CBN sanctions also accused MTN of not paying taxes on foreign payments and imports totaling about $2 billion to the Federal Government.

CBN's spokesperson, Isaac Okorafor, said the repatriation was facilitated by four commercial banks using irregular Certificates of Capital Importation (CCIs) issued on behalf of some offshore investors of MTN Nigeria.

The four banks, Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic-IBTC, Citibank and Diamond Bank, were also asked to refund various amounts totaling N5.87 billion.

The amounts, which have since been deducted from the banks' accounts with the CBN, include N2.5 billion for Standard Chartered; Stanbic IBTC (N1.9 billion); Citibank (N1.3 billion and Diamond Bank (N250 million).

The CBN accused the banks of violating the country's laws, including the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1995 and the Foreign Exchange Manual, 2006.

MTN, which described the allegation as regrettable, rejected both sanctions, promised to vigorously defend its position that it did not do anything illegal an unlawful.

"MTN Nigeria Communications Limited (MTN Nigeria) continues to categorically and unequivocally deny all charges related to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) investigations into the company's CCIs and unpaid taxes respectively.

"In order to protect MTN Nigeria's assets and shareholder rights within the confines of the law, we have applied today in the Federal High Court of Nigeria for injunctive relief restraining the CBN and the AGF from taking further action in respect of their orders, while we continue to engage with the relevant authorities on these matters," a statement by MTN's spokesperson, Tobe Okigbo, sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Monday said.

Mr Okigbo said the allegations (by CBN and AGF) involve complex issues that are easily misunderstood and misinterpreted.

He said the issues are made to be even more confusing when the relevant authorities send conflicting messages and instructions and act in a way that appears un-coordinated and at cross purposes.

"The simple reality is that MTN Nigeria has never repatriated dividends on the CCIs referenced by the CBN and that MTN is fully compliant with Nigerian tax law," Mr Okigo said.

He said the decision to approach the court was to seek judicial intervention on the conflicting regulatory directives and the processes followed by the CBN and the AGF

Assuring that MTN remained fully committed to Nigeria, the company said it would continue to defend its position vigorously.

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