It is resolved, settled, finally, or so it seems. We are talking about the 10-year-old dispute between Nigeria’s Central Bank and South African telecommunication giant, MTN, over unauthorized repatriation of $8.1 billion from Nigeria by the mobile carrier in 2008. News reports Wednesday quoted MTN as saying it paid $53 million in penalty as a final settlement of the matter and would engage the banks that helped it to illegally repatriate dividends in 2008 so as to reverse it as part of the agreement reached with the CBN.
On its own part, the CBN, in a statement, explained the minute detail of the agreement. It reads: “The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in August 2018 directed MTN Communications Limited (MTN) to reverse repatriations valued at $8.1 billion done on its behalf by four commercial banks between 2007 and 2015 on the basis of Certificates of Capital Importation (CCIs) irregularly issued to MTN. Following the keen interest shown by various stakeholders sequel to the regulatory action, the CBN committed to engage further with MTNN with a view to achieving an equitable resolution.
“Consequent upon the above, MTN, led by its Nigerian shareholders, held intensive engagements with the CBN in the course of which it supplied additional material information, not previously offered to the Bank, satisfactorily clarifying its remittances. Having now reviewed the additional documentation provided by the company, the CBN has concluded that MTNN is no longer required to reverse the historical dividend payments made to MTN Nigeria shareholders. However, the CBN identified that the proceeds from the preference shares in MTNN’s private placement remittances of 2008 were irregular having been based on CCIs that were issued without the final approval of CBN. The CBN and MTN have mutually agreed that the aforementioned transaction be reversed notionally to bring it into full compliance with foreign exchange laws and regulations.
“The parties have resolved that execution of the terms of the agreement will lead to an amicable disposal of the pending legal suit between the parties and final resolution of the matter. The CBN assures foreign investors that the integrity of the CCIs issued by authorized dealers remain sacrosanct. Potential investors are encouraged to take advantage of the enormous investment opportunities that abound within Nigeria.”
We note that before now, MTN had used every subterfuge, including blackmail and legal action to retain what it illegally took out of Nigeria. It leveraged its connections in the western business world to paint our nation as one that is not investment friendly. However, if truth be told, MTN understands Nigeria’s culture of impunity, our disrespect for the rule of law, only too well to miss the opportunity to take advantage of it. Without the connivance of banks in Nigeria, MTN could not possibly have pulled off that huge fraud. This is why we propose MTN’s local collaborators – the banks – be identified and sanctioned. Secondly, there should be legislation in place, if none already exists, that compels foreign businesses in Nigeria to reinvest a half of their profits in this country. We must take all measures necessary to prevent a repeat of the sad MTN saga.