In­vestors re­main edgy over Nige­rian in­vest­ment cli­mate ahead of MTN/CBN court hear­ing

Business a.m. - - NEWS - Ades­ola Afo­labi

THE SCHED­ULED OC­TO­BER 30TH 2018 court hear­ing for the CBN/ MTN is­sue draws near, in­vestors and in­dus­try watch­ers re­main on edge in an­tic­i­pa­tion of an am­i­ca­ble res­o­lu­tion to the case that has swept the me­dia space in the last 2 months.

Zainab Ahmed, Nige­ria’s min­is­ter of fi­nance ad­mit­ted in an in­ter­view that the se­ries of sanc­tions lev­elled against ICT com­pany, MTN Nige­ria is cur­rently ma­lign­ing the coun­try’s rep­u­ta­tion in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

“The MTN in­ci­dent was a very dam­ag­ing one for us. That was one of the rea­sons why we have been out try­ing to en­gage in­vestors”, she said at the 24th Nige­rian Eco­nomic Sum­mit Abuja on Tues­day, 23rd Oc­to­ber 2018.

The tele­com com­pany and four banks (Stan­dard Char­tered Bank, Citi Bank, Stan­bic IBTC Bank and Di­a­mond Bank) have been em­broiled in a pro­tracted back and forth, with the Cen­tral Bank of Nige­ria and the of­fice of the At­tor­ney-Gen­eral de­mand­ing over $10bil­lion for al­leged il­le­gal repa­tri­a­tion of div­i­dends as well as tax de­faults.

The min­is­ter gave rea­sons for the sanc­tions, ex­plain­ing that “there is a ten­dency for big busi­ness to take reg­u­la­tions and govern­ments for granted.” She con­tin­ued fur- in her ex­pla­na­tion stat­ing that “After that in­ci­dent hap­pened, all the in­for­ma­tion the CBN has been try­ing to get in two months ac­tu­ally came. Now, they have al­most solved the prob­lem.”

This news has caused a pub­lic outcry es­pe­cially on so­cial me­dia where the news broke early Wed­nes­day morn­ing. Many users have per­ceived this as a half­hearted ac­cep­tance of er­ror by the government. “Nige­ria is con­sid­ered a high-risk coun­try es­pe­cially after the MTN de­ba­cle, in­vestors are not very keen on ex­pos­ing their in­vest­ments to state volatil­ity”, @Fakhu­usHashim, an in­flu­en­tial so­cial me­dia user stated em­phat­i­cally.

Fur­ther­more, the comments by the fi­nance min­is­ter con­tra­dict the ac­tions and state­ments of the CBN in the past. Dur­ing a 2016 Se­nate in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged vi­o­la­tions of the For­eign Ex­change (Mon­i­tor­ing and Miscellaneous) Act by MTN, the bank reg­u­la­tor, in sworn tes­ti­mony said that the com­pany was not in breach of any pro­vi­sion of the law with re­spect to the Cer­tifi­cates of Cap­i­tal Im­por­ta­tion, in ef­fect, con­cur­ring with the com­pany.

Funso Aina, MTN Nige­ria’s pub­lic re­la­tions man­ager in a state­ment is­sued in Au­gust con­firmed the com­pany’s po­si­tion, clearly stat­ing that MTN has been co­op­er­at­ing with the government and all nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion re­quired had been pro­vided by the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany and th­ese have been ex­haus­tively re­viewed and cleared in 2016/2017.

In a fol­low­ing state­ment is­sued by the com­pany in Septem­ber, the com­pany fur­ther stressed th­ese points and its his­toric en­gage­ments with the Nige­rian au­thorineur­ship ties.

“It is both re­gret­table and dis­con­cert­ing that de­spite the his­toric en­gage­ments with the Nige­rian au­thor­i­ties by MTN Nige­ria, the Se­nate in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the CCI mat­ter, and the mul­ti­ple tax as­sess­ments done by the Nige­rian tax au­thor­i­ties over many years that were sat­is­fac­to­rily con­cluded, that th­ese mat­ters are be­ing re­opened.”

Ahmed has al­layed any fears by point­ing out that this sce­nario will not be re­peated with other or­gan­i­sa­tions.

“We are try­ing to make sure this doesn’t hap­pen again, we are con­tin­u­ously dis­cussing with mone­tary au­thor­i­ties.

There will be no com­pany next after MTN, no­body is next be­cause we can’t af­ford for this kind of in­ci­dence to keep hap­pen­ing,” she added.

The pend­ing civil cases will be heard on the 30th of Oc­to­ber and 8th of Novem­ber for the mat­ter with the Cen­tral Bank of Nige­ria and the At­tor­ney Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion re­spec­tively.

There is a ten­dency for big busi­ness to take reg­u­la­tions and govern­ments for granted

L-R: Emeka Emuwa, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Union Bank; Nike Akande, for­mer min­is­ter of in­dus­try; Adekunle Sonola, head, com­mer­cial bank­ing, Union Bank; and Lola Car­doso, chief dig­i­tal and in­no­va­tion of­fi­cer, Union Bank, at the open­ing cer­e­mony of the edu360 fair or­gan­ised by Union Bank in La­gos

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