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MTN Runs to Court over Fine, CBN/AGF Dispute

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) have both been taken to court by MTN Nigeria Communications Limited.

The largest telecommunication firm in Africa is contesting the CBN directive that it should refund $8.1 billion to the Nigerian government as well as the $2 billion tax bill slammed on it by the AGF.

MTN said in a statement obtained by Business Post on Monday that what is also worrisome to it is the dispute between the CBN and the AGF on who the $8.1 billion should be paid to.

While the CBN directed MTN Nigeria to make the refund through it, the AGF, according to MTN, wants the money paid to its coffers.

As a result of the confusion, MTN said it was going to court to get a clear view of the issue and the others.

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Though MTN has continued to categorically and unequivocally deny all charges, the firm said it will continue to engage with the relevant authorities on these matters.

The CBN alleged improper dividend repatriations by MTN Nigeria and requested that $8.1 billion be returned “to the coffers of the CBN” whilst the AGF has alleged unpaid taxes on foreign payments and imports and that approximately $2 billion in relation to these taxes be paid to the Federal Government of Nigeria (and now directed that the payment of the $8.1 billion is dealt with through his office rather than as directed by the CBN).

“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,” the statement said.

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Commenting on the developments, MTN Nigeria Corporate Relations Executive, Tobe Okigbo, said, “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 uncoordinated 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.

“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 adjudicators. This has been done today.”

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MTN said it remains fully committed to Nigeria and remains resolute that the company has not committed any offences and will continue to defend its position vigorously.

Recall that the CBN fined four commercial banks N5.9 billion in respect of the administration of the CCI and irregular dividend repatriation and requested to return, in aggregate, the same $8.1 billion.

Last week, the central bank debited the four affected bank the total sum of the fine.

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Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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