…says authorities send conflicting messages, instructions
Embattled telecommunications giant, MTN Nigeria, yesterday filed a petition against the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) at the Federal High Court, Lagos over demands for the return of $8.1 billion allegedly repatriated illegally and $2 billion tax arrears.
In the petition, the company is seeking an injunction restraining the CBN and the AGF from taking further action in respect of their orders, while it continues to engage with the relevant authorities over the matters.
Former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) filed the suits on behalf of MTN.
The CBN had alleged improper dividend repatriations by MTN Nigeria and requested that $8.1 billion be returned “to the coffers of the CBN” whilst the AGF had alleged unpaid taxes on foreign payments and imports and that approximately $2 billion in relation to these taxes be paid to the Federal Government.
However, the telecommunications company expressed surprise over a fresh order from the AGF directing that the payment of the $8.1 billion is dealt with through his office rather than as directed by the CBN.
It said the situation has become more confusing as it continues to receive contradictory directives from the government.
MTN said it approached the court in order to protect its assets and shareholder rights within the confines of the law.
MTN treaded similar path in 2015 when the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) slammed N1.04 trillion fine against the company for its failure to keep to SIM registration rules.
The company had approached a High Court to challenge the fine imposed on it by the regulatory body. The court, however, struck out the suit following the telecommunications company’s request for withdrawal of the suit. This gave room for an out-of-court settlement which led to the reduction of the fine to N330 billion.
Speaking on the development, MTN Nigeria Corporate Relations Executive, Tobe Okigbo, said the allegations being made involve issues that appear to be complex and are easily misunderstood and misinterpreted.
“They are made even more confusing when the relevant authorities send conflicting messages and instructions and act in a way that appears uncoordinated and at cross purposes,” he said.
He insisted that MTN Nigeria has never repatriated dividends on the Certificates of Capital Importation (CCIs) referenced by the CBN and that MTN is fully compliant with Nigerian tax law.
“With situations like this, it is vital for both the government, regulators and the company to have absolute clarity on the nature of both the allegations being made and the processes that are being followed. In the absence of this clarity, our only option is to seek judicial intervention and to ask the courts to act as adjudicator. This has been done today (yesterday).
“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’s) investigations into the company’s CCIs and unpaid taxes respectively,” the telco said.
Okigbo, however, noted that despite current challenges, the company remained fully committed to Nigeria and remained resolute that it had not committed any offences and would continue to defend its position vigorously.
He said the company would continue to engage with the relevant authorities.
Already, the CBN has debited the lenders’ accounts with the huge fines it slammed on them for the violation.
The Standard Chartered Bank’s account has been debited N2.4 billion, Citigroup’s N1.2 billion, Stanbic IBTC’s, N1.886 billion and Diamond Bank’s, N250 million for allegedly assisting the telecoms giant to illegally move $8.13 billion abroad.
The CBN usually debits the account of banks when it imposes a fine or to implement aspects of its monetary policies such as Cash Reserve Requirements (CRR) if such lenders do not comply.
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