The management of MTN Nigeria has dragged the Federal Government and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malaki to court over the Minister’s insistence that the telecom giant defrauded in tax remittance to the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) accusation that it committed other infractions.
MTN thus urged the Federal High Court to restrain the CBN and the AGF from enforcing their orders that the telecom should refund $8.1bn and $2bn to the Federal Government.
The CBN had accused the company of illegally repatriating $8.1bn through improper Certificates of Capital Importation (CCI).
The AGF also said it defrauded in $2bn unpaid taxes over a 10-year period and therefore demanded a refund.
Four local banks, found wanting in the deal were fined. The fines have since been deducted by the CBN from their accounts.
Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MTN, Rob Shutter, said he is sure of an amicable settlement of the issues.
Responding to a question on the crisis on the sideline of the ongoing International Telecoms Union (ITU) Conference at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban, South Africa, Shutter said: “In all its 22 countries of operation, Nigeria is the telecom’s largest market.
The challenges of the past two weeks, he said, will be addressed.”
The court processes notwithstanding, the CEO said the company will continue to engage with the authorities on these matters.
MTN Corporate Relations Executive Tobe Okigbo said the telecom “continues to categorically and unequivocally deny all charges related to the CBN and AGF investigations into the company’s CCIs and unpaid taxes respectively”.
He said as previously disclosed, the CBN has alleged improper dividend repatriations by MTN Nigeria and requested that $8.1bn be returned “to the coffers of the CBN, whilst the AGF has alleged unpaid taxes on foreign payments and imports and that approximately $2bm 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). MTN Nigeria has denied these allegations and claims.
“Furthermore, four commercial banks were issued fines in respect of the administration of the CCI and irregular dividend repatriation and requested to return, in aggregate, the same $8.1 billion.
“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.
“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.”
Okigbo restated MTN’s commitment to Nigeria, pointing out that the company has not committed any offences and will continue to defend its position vigorously.
“The company will continue engaging with the relevant authorities, and further information will be provided as and when available”, Okigbo assured.