MTN Nigeria on Monday sought relief from a Federal High Court in Lagos over the $2 billion demand for unpaid taxes owed the nation and the illegal repatriation of $8.1 billion dividends to South Africa.
The attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mallam Abubabar Malami had last week demanded the mobile operator refund to the government accumulated tax arrears of $2 billion owed over the last 10 years.
The mobile operator a fortnight ago ran afoul of the federal government laws when it when it was discovered by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that MTN and its bankers had used illegal Certificate of Capital Importation (CCIs) to move $8.1 billion from 2007 to 2015 out of the country.
This is not the first time MTN is taking Nigerian government to court. In January 2016, MTN went to court when it failed to deactivate over five million used SIM Cards from its network as was fined $5.2 billion as penalty. It later withdrew the suit and wrote a letter of apology to the Nigerian Communications Commission, asking for leniency.
MTN Nigeria Corporate Relations Executive Tobe Okigbo said the recourse to the court was 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 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.”
He however, said MTN remains fully committed to Nigeria, the company will continue to engage with the relevant authorities, and further information will be provided as and when available.
Meanwhile, the Chief executive officer and president of MTN Group, Mr. Rob Shuter yesterday assured that his company will seek an amicable resolution of its rift with the federal government over the $2 billion unpaid tax areas and the demand that it return $8.1 billion dividends illegally repatriated out of the country.
Shuter, who spoke at a press conference at the ITU Telecom World 2018 organised by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) which opened yesterday in Durban, South Africa said “we are committed to the country. We shall do everything possible to resolve the matter.”
He said “Nigeria is our largest market and we appreciate the love shown to us by the people and government of Nigeria over the years since we began operating in the country 17 years ago.” He said MTN operates in 22 countries in Africa and Asia with over 220 million and 55 million of them comes from Nigeria.
“I can say that indeed the last two weeks have been very tough, I mean challenging, but being the largest market, we are working towards having an amicable solution to the matter” he said.
Shuter canvassed for improved connectivity across Africa, saying “If you look at the different markets we are in, there are lots of alignments on what governments want to achieve and what telecoms operators want to. I didn’t find any major dissonance to the people and the entire ecosystem.”