Alleged Repatriation of $13.9bn: MTN Did Not Admit Non-compliance with Extant Law

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By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

Telecoms provider, MTN, has denied media reports that its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ferdi Moolman, admitted non-compliance with the law on alleged repatriation of $13.9 billion at the investigative hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions in Abuja on October 20.

The organisation also denied reports that the submission of Moolman contradicted that of its Chairman, Mr. Pascal Dozie, stating that Dozie explained at the hearing that MTN did not break any law on repatriation of funds while Moolman said there were circumstances where it was difficult to complete documentation in relation to importation of equipment within 24 hours.

According to MTN lawyer, Franklin Nlerum,  Dozie stated at the hearing that MTN complied with documentation requirements, adding that the law does not state that certificate of capital importation (CCI) must be obtained within 24 hours but only states that it shall be issued within 24 hours.

He also said contrary to reports that Moolman said it was practically impossible for MTN to comply with the 24-hour provision for the issuance of CCI, what he actually said was that there were circumstances where it was difficult to complete documentation in relation to importation of equipment.

He said: “Issuance of CCI rest with authorised dealer. MTN is not an authorised dealer. So, the obligation to issue CCI within 24 hours does not rest on it. If the obligation is not on it, the failure to issue CCI within the frame cannot be a violation by MTN.”

He added: “First, the issuance of CCI within 24 hours is distinct from repatriation of funds. It’s not the duty of MTN to issue CCI. The law did not state that CCI must be obtained within 24 hours. Instead, it is that CCI shall be issued within 24 hours. This is aimed at protecting the investor and preventing delay by the authorised dealer – Bank through whom the capital was imported.

“Please note that the documents required for the issuance of CCI are not provided in the law but in the Foreign Exchange Instrument Manual Issued by CBN. When there are therefore issues with documentation, the authorised dealer usually secure the approval of CBN to issue CCI outside 24-hour period.  Moolman at the hearing explained that there were circumstances especially with respect to the importation of equipment that didn’t allow for complete documentation within 24-hour period.”

Nlerum also denied the report that the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, walked out of the hearing venue despite being instructed otherwise by the committee.

“The hearing was scheduled for 12 noon. Enelamah who had rescheduled another meeting fixed before the committee’s invitation had to attend the hearing on the understanding that the Senate is a critical institution of the Nigerian nation and will operate with respect for time. He was at the venue much earlier.

“The committee proceeding began almost two hours behind schedule. This was implicitly acknowledged by Senator Umaru Kurfi who moved the votes of thanks after the opening.

“Enelamah made efforts to reach the chairman of the committee to explain his constraints and request his kind understanding to give his testimony which is to adopt an earlier written response and be excused to the  meeting he had rescheduled. This was the background to the minister’s exit from the venue of the hearing,” he stated.

The lawyer also denied the report that Senator Dino Melaye displayed a document said to have been signed by Enelamah on repatriation of funds, claiming that the senator only “waxed some papers” which were not shown to the audience. He also faulted the report that Dozie was the Chairman of Diamond Bank, saying: “He has not been the chairman of Diamond Bank for 10 years.”