MTN Nigeria, has today, filed for an injunction against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, following the government’s recent allegations of $8.1bn illegal fund repatriation and $2bn in unpaid taxes as well as a fine of N5.8bn levied against the four commercial banks involved in the transaction.
The barrage of issues which started surfacing on Thursday, August 30th, 2018 has since riddled the media space with allegations, speculations and opinions being thrown around by stakeholders, investors and industry experts around the world.
Commenting on the new development and MTN’s decision to seek legal action, Corporate Relations Executive, MTN Nigeria, Tobe Okigbo said:
“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.”
It can be recalled that on Tuesday, 4th September 2018, MTN released an official statement on the issue, denying all allegations levelled against it and restating its commitment to Nigeria.
Since the release of this statement, the CBN has gone ahead to deduct directly from the banks concerned – Stanbic IBTC, Diamond Bank, CitiBank and Standard Chartered – the fines levied against them.
In further developments, the AGF wrote to the banks, instructing them to pay these same fines, which had already been directly deducted, into an “asset recovery account;”
CBN officials have also been quoted as saying that on any repatriation of the $8.1 billion, the naira equivalent would be returned to MTN Nigeria, while the AGF has also written to MTN Nigeria describing the $8.1 billion as a “penalty” and instructing that the said penalty be paid into an offshore “asset recovery USD account.”
Considering these steps by the authorities, and the conflicting messages and instructions to MTN Nigeria, the company has resorted to filing papers at the Federal High Court Lagos, to seek declaratory and injunctive relief against any further steps by the CBN and the AGF until the matter is resolved, specifically seeking.
Further speaking on these developments, Tobe Okigbo expressed concerns about how easily misinterpreted the issues were. In his words;
“The allegations being made involve issues that appear to be complex and so 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 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 concluded by restating the company’s position on all allegations and its determination to continue engaging relevant authorities until the issues are cleared.
“MTN remains fully committed to Nigeria and remains resolute that the company has not committed any offences and will continue to defend its position vigorously.”