South African-owned mobile telecom giant MTN has dragged Nigeria to court over alleged illegal repatriation of $8 billion and $2 billion tax evasion.
MTN Nigeria has approached the Federal High Court to compel the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) to soften their positions on the two issues.
The Apex bank had ordered the company to refund $8.1 billion, which it illegally repatriated through improper Certificates of Capital Importation (CCI).
AGF also asked the company to pay $2 billion 10 years tax arrears.
A heavy fine
MTN, which started business in Nigeria in May 2001, began having a series of problems from 2016 when it was slammed a heavy fine by the National Communications Commission (NCC) and the Ministry of Communication.
The Federal Government, through NCC, handed MTN Group a $5.2 billion fine.
The commission exercised section 20(1) of the Telephone Subscribers regulation (TSR) law on MTN, for not meeting the deadline set up by the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) for disconnecting the Subscribers Identification Modules (SIM) with improper registration.
The company paid part of the fine after applying both diplomatic and legal pressures.
In the crisis concerning the repatriation of funds, four Nigerian banks accused of aiding MTN were also fined various sums, debited to their accounts by CBN.
CBN said the investigation into the activities of MTN Nigeria spanned over 30 months, on several issues and not just on the illegal capital repatriation.
But MTN denied the allegation and resolved to approach the Federal High Court for redress.
"In order to protect MTN Nigeria’s assets and shareholder rights within the confines of the law, we have applied 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, ” MTN Nigeria spokesman Tobe Okigbo, said.
He described the allegations as "complex and misleading".
“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," Mr Okigbo, said further.