MTN Nigeria Communications Limited is currently in talks with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for an amicable resolution of the dispute which arose from the apex bank’s directive for the payment of $8.1 billion from the telecommunication outfit.
The $8.1 billion demand by the CBN followed alleged forex remittances infraction by MTN. MTN’s lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), made the disclosure yesterday at the resumed hearing of a suit to challenge the legality of the CBN’s demand.
The silk urged Justice Saliu Saidu of a Federal High Court in Lagos to further adjourn the matter to allow for further discussions between parties. Olanipekun said: “May it please your lordship, the matter today, is slated for hearing of pending applications, but we owe the court a duty to inform it that parties are engaged. “Counsel have conferred, and in view of this, we are asking for a short date for report.”
The position was confirmed by CBN’s lawyer, Mr. Seyi Sowemimo (SAN), who added that the discussions for possible out-ofcourt settlement were in the advanced stage.
“We are at advanced stages towards settlement, and it remains to cross the Ts and dot the Is; it is just for report of settlement,” the CBN counsel said. Consequently, Justice Saidu adjourned till 12th December, 2018, for a report of the settlement between the parties.
MTN filed the suit, marked FHC/L/ CS/1475/2018, in November, urging the court to declare that the CBN acted ultra vires its statutory powers when it wrote a 28th August, 2018 letter to it demanding a refund of $8.1 billion. The firm urged the court to hold that the demand was “illegal, oppressive, abusive, unauthorised and unconstitutional.”
The telecommunications giant urged the court to declare that the “1st defendant’s (CBN) decision in its letter of 28th August, 2018 with Ref No GBD/ GOV/COM/DGF/118/121 addressed to it and titled, ‘Investigation into the remittance of foreign exchange on the basis of the illegal capital importation certificates issued to MTN Nigeria Communications Limited’ were reached in breach of the plaintiff’s right to fair hearing.”
It also urged the court to void a 3rd September, 2018 letter written to it by the 2nd defendant, the Attorney General of the Federation, demanding $8.1 billion as “penalties for the offence of ‘infraction of forex remittances’.” MTN sought a court order “restraining the 1st and 2nd defendants from giving effect to the decisions, demands, and directives in their letters of 28th August, 2018, and 3rd September, 2018, respectively.”
However, the CBN, in its statement of defence and counter-claim, urged the court to dismiss MTN’s suit, insisting that the telecommunications giant must refund $8.1 billion to the Federal Government. The dispute over $8.1 billion repatriated funds started when the CBN alleged that MTN used improperly issued certificates to transfer funds out of Nigeria after the telecom giant converted shareholder loans in its Nigerian unit to preference shares in 2007.
The apex bank said MTN banks failed to verify that the telecom group had met all the country’s foreign exchange regulations. Meanwhile, MTN had filed a sister case before another judge of same court, Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, against the AGF, challenging a withholding tax assessment of $1.3 billion and an import duty tax of N242 billion. MTN queries these assessments. Justice Aneke has fixed February 7, 2019 for hearing of all pending applications in this suit.