MTN Communications Limited, could as a last resort reach out to the South African government to explore diplomatic ties, in a bid to resolve its issues with the Nigerian government. South Africa’s Telecommunications Minister Siyabonga Cwele told Reuters.
“IF THEY NEED OUR ASSISTANCE, THEN WE WILL ENGAGE OUR COUNTERPART IN NIGERIA,”
Cwele also disclosed that the company was currently in talks with the Nigerian government.
MTN yesterday released a statement that it was seeking a lawsuit restraining the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Attorney General of the Federation from compelling the firm to pay the sum of $10.1 billion.
This comprises $8.1 billion which the apex bank is of the opinion, was illegally repatriated out of the country, and $2 billion which the office of the Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami has stated the company owes as back taxes.
How it all began
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) last month fined four banks Stanbic IBTC, Diamond Bank, Standard Chartered and Citibank, a total of ₦5.86 billion for breaching Nigeria’s extant laws and forex rules when they facilitated illegal repatriation of funds to South Africa on behalf of MTN.
MTN then issued a statement denying any form of illegality had taken place, as it had been cleared by the Senate. The CBN has since gone on to deduct the fines from the accounts of the banks involved.
The Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami then accused the company of owing $2 billion as back taxes, relating to the importation of equipment and payments to suppliers over the last ten years.
Despite these issues, the company has stated it will continue to operate in Nigeria for the long haul.
Will history repeat itself?
The country first intervened in 2015 following the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)imposing a $5.2 billion fine on the company for the company’s failure to disconnect improperly registered sims. MTN then took the government to court.
The fine was however reduced to $1 billion following the intervention of then President Jacob Zuma, and the case was withdrawn. The company has so far paid about N165 billion or 60% of the fine.
As part of the terms and conditions of the settlement, MTN was also required to list its Nigerian arm and tender an apology to the Nigerian government.