Emma Okonji in Durban, South Africa
The Group Chief Executive Officer of MTN, Mr. Rob Shuter, yesterday at the ongoing ITU Telecom World 2018 conference in Durban, South Africa, restated MTN’s commitment to continue to invest in Nigeria despite the financial challenges that the telecoms company is facing with Nigerian regulators.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), had directed MTN Nigeria to refund a total of $10.134 billion for funds repatriated out of Nigeria between 2007 and 2015, and unpaid tax arrears for the same period.
Shuter, who was reacting to questions raised by some invitees at the Nigerian Investment Forum, who were mostly South Africans, assured the South Africans, that the current challenges faced by MTN in Nigeria would not liquidate the telecoms company, adding that the company was already making arrangements to resolve the challenges amicably.
Shuter said MTN would not be deterred by the directives, but would continue to do business in Nigeria.
According to him, “MTN has been in Nigeria since 2001. Nigeria has been a home to MTN since 2001 and MTN is proud of Nigeria, and would continue to do business in the country.”
Responding to questions raised at the Forum as to what the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator, is doing about the issues, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said NCC had meditated in previous issues faced by MTN Nigeria and would also mediate in the current issue concerning the $10.134 billion funds repatriation and unpaid tax arrears.
“What MTN is passing through could have ripple effects on the sector, and we must intervene to ensure that the issue is amicably resolved early enough,” Danbatta said.
The CBN had also slammed a fine of N5.87 billion on four banks over the violation of extant laws and regulations of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1995, and the Foreign Exchange Manual, 2006. The highest fine of N2, 470,604,767.13 was slammed on Standard Chartered Bank, while Stanbic IBTC Nigeria was fined N1, 885,852,847.45.
For the alleged infraction, Citibank got N1, 265,541,562.31 fines just as Diamond Bank was directed to pay N250 million penalty.
Also affected, was MTN Nigeria, which the CBN directed to immediately refund $8,134,312,397.63, which was illegally repatriated by the telecoms company, to the coffers of the bank.