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MTN Nigeria sues CBN, AGF over $10.134bn fine


The telecoms giant, Mobile Telecommunication Network (MTN Nigeria) has filed a suit before the Federal High Court in Lagos against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Attorney-General of the Federation over the $10.134 billion fine for violating repatriation regulation.

In the suit, MTN is asking the court 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 telecoms company refunds amounts totalling $10.134 billion to Nigeria.

A fortnight ago, the CBN had 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.

The 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 had 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.

The fines were imposed even as MTN rejected sanction describing the allegation as regrettable. It also promised to vigorously defend its position insisting that it did not do anything illegal an unlawful.

MTN’s spokesperson, Tobe Okigbo, also stated in a statement made available on on Monday that, “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, it stated .

“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.

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.”

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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Chuka Francis

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