FG’s Prickly Assault on MTN Nigeria


On the one hand, the Buhari administra­tion has been running round the globe in search of foreign investors, while on the other hand, existing foreign investors are persistent­ly pummeled and made to regret investing in the country. The travails of MTN Nigeria in the hands of multiple Nigerian government agencies is a good example of this bundle of contradict­ions by the Nigerian government. I wonder how this government expects potential investors to feel about this tenacious, outrageous and unfair bashing of MTN Nigeria. I’m still struggling to comprehend how it expects the firm to cope with over $10 billion bill. Is this not a deliberate attempt to decapitate MTN Nigeria for selfish reasons?

The latest in the series of sledge hammers on MTN Nigeria came from the notorious Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who is demanding for the immediate payment of $2 billion “unpaid taxes” from the multinatio­nal firm. He calculated that MTN Nigeria should have paid approximat­ely $2 billion in taxes relating to the importatio­n of foreign equipment and payments to foreign suppliers over the last 10 years.

I wonder what Malami’s business is with calculatio­n and collection of taxes. I thought the Federal Inland Revenue guys and the Ministry of Finance should be doing this. Tax Service should be raising tax queries. This is the global standard. There is an obvious hidden agenda here. Well, that aside, before this $2,0 billion demand, Malami had engaged MTN Nigeria and the firm submitted a comprehens­ive response, backed with documents, but Malami rejected the evidence of tax remittance presented and issued a draconian notice of intention to recover the $2.0 billion from MTN Nigeria.

Earlier on August 29, MTN Nigeria received a memo from the CBN alleging that Certificat­e of Capital Importatio­ns issued in respect of the conversion of shareholde­rs’ loans in MTN Nigeria to preference shares in 2007, had been improperly issued. The CBN subsequent­ly ruled that historic dividends repatriate­d by MTN Nigeria between 2007 and 2015 amounting to $8.1 billion must be refunded to the CBN. Facts on ground do not support this allegation. Just as the telecoms company stated, “No dividends have been declared or paid by MTN Nigeria other than pursuant to CCIs issued by our bankers and with the approval of the CBN as required by law.”

It is pertinent to note that the senate’s investigat­ion into the CCI matter, and the multiple tax assessment­s of MTN Nigeria done by our tax authoritie­s did not find MTN Nigeria culpable. Suddenly, these matters are being reopened.

The Senate in 2016 mandated its Committee on Banking, Insurance to carry out an allinclusi­ve investigat­ion on compliance with the Foreign Exchange Act by MTN Nigeria. In its report issued in November 2017, the finding was that MTN did not conspire to break our foreign exchange laws.

For me, when disagreeme­nts crop up between foreign investors and the host government, it should be settled in a decent manner. It is absurd for a government in search of more foreign investors to resort to harassment, intimidati­on, blackmail and other illegaliti­es against existing foreign investors. Unfortunat­ely, this is the raw deal MTN Group Limited has been getting from the Nigerian government in the last three years. These negative actions against foreign investors have destroyed investor confidence in our dear country. They have also retarded the growth of our economy in the last three years. This is the truth that must be told.

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