Mobile phone giant MTN has faulted the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for alleging that it colluded with four banks to repatriate $8.1 billion.
The rebuttal comes as Nigerians expressed outrage on the allegations of irregular deals by the subsidiary of the South African firm.
CBN had accused MTN of colluding with the banks to repatriate money from its Nigerian operations to offshore investors.
The bank on Wednesday alleged that the remittances were made between 2007 and 2015, in tranches of $2.63 billion, $1.766 billion and $348 million.
The transactions, it said, were done in flagrant violation of the rule that says it can only be done with regular ‘Certificates of Capital Importation (CCIs)’ issued by the apex bank.
CBN said MTN did the repatriation after illegally converting shareholders’ loan of $400 million to preference shares.
The apex bank sanctioned the four banks - Standard Chartered, Stanbic IBTC Nigeria, Citibank Nigeria and Diamond Bank – with various fines.
But MTN spokesman Funso Aina on Thursday in Abuja denied the claims and said:
“MTN Nigeria received a letter on Aug 29 from Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) alleging that Certificate of Capital Important (CCIs) issued in respect of the conversion of shareholders’ loans in MTN Nigeria to preference shares in 2007 had been improperly issued.
"As a consequence, they claim that historic dividends repatriated by MTN Nigeria between 2007 and 2015 amounting to $8.1 billion need to be refunded to the CBN.
"MTN Nigeria strongly refutes these allegations and claims."
Mr Aina said the Nigerian Senate had already investigated the issues concerning CCIs and concluded that MTN Nigeria did not contravene the foreign exchange laws.
“MTN Nigeria, as a law-abiding citizen of Nigeria, is committed to good governance and to abide by the extant laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The re-emergence of these issues is regrettable as it damages investor confidence and, by extension, inhibits the growth and development of the Nigerian economy," he asserted.
CBN’s spokesperson Isaac Okorafor said the top bank had written to MTN Nigeria demanding a refund of the $8.13 billion, repatriated.
As the controversy rages, some stakeholders have expressed disappointment with the activities of the South African owned company.
A telecom expert, Mr Aloysious Agaba, said: "The same MTN was fined billions of dollars in 2016 in contravention with extant laws on SIM registration. That case is still on ground and the company is at it again on a large scale."
A dealer in recharge cards, Mrs Adaobi Ajayiaid remarked: "MTN is taking Nigeria for a ride.’’
"Foreign companies always collude with Nigeria collaborators to defraud the country,’’ she said.