By Odunewu Segun
South African telecom giant, MTN group is at its wit end, especially its operations in Nigeria, its biggest market which has come under serious investigations in recent times.
MTN which is yet to pay the N1.04 trillion fine for infraction of the provisions of the Nigerian Communication Commission regulation for failure to disconnect 5.1million improperly registered lines is on another warpath with the Nigerian Senate which accused it of illegally moving about $13.9 billion out of Nigeria without obtaining the necessary document.
Initially, it was reported that the CEO of MTN, Ferdi Moolman, admitted that the company moved the funds without complying with the 24-hour order for the issuance of Certificate of Capital Importation (CCI) at the commencement of the investigative hearing by the Senate Committee on Banking and other financial institutions, saying it was practically impossible to do so.
Moolman, it was reported stated that the action was taken without any deliberate intention to flout Nigerian laws but was rather compelled to do so because of circumstances which he said made it impossible for it to observe the 24-hour provision in the Act for issuance of CCI.
However, barely 24 hours after Moolman made this submission before the committee, MTN changed the story. In another statement, the company said its CEO “was quoted out of context,” and denied allegations that it actually transferred the said amount illegally.
In the new statement, MTN said that Certificates of Capital Importation were requested for capital brought into Nigeria and that dividends were repatriated based on those investments.
Commenting specifically on the point of the CCIs in the matter of the alleged repatriation of funds out of Nigeria, Moolman said that no dividends were declared or paid until the CCIs were issued and finalised.
While Mr. Pascal Dozie, Chairman of Diamond Bank, one of the banks implicated in the illegal transfer, denied any such transfer by MTN, Senator Dino Melaye didn’t buy the defense.
Melaye displayed a form signed by Enelamah on February 7, 2008 for repatriation of funds, with a CCI form attached the same day investment was said to have been made in Nigeria, as he queried: “Is it possible to invest in Nigeria same day and repatriate funds same day?”
Melaye also confronted Dozie and MTN CEO with evidences that whereas CCI was supposed to have been issued within 24 hours before repatriation, such CCIs were not issued until five years later as he dismissed Dozie’s claim that Nigerian laws were not flouted in the process. “The law says CCI should be issued in 24 hours but CCIs were issued five years after. Is that not a contravention?” he queried.
Melaye also said he had information that whereas CBN approved only 13 CCIs, Stanbic IBTC only had issued over 300 CCIs without containing the necessary information it ought to contain.
But CBN in its submission said it only approved CCIs beyond the 24-hour stipulation when it was obvious that banks could not issue the document within the stipulated time.
It is now obvious that MTN is ready to take the Senate on by denying the allegations despite the evidences provided by the Senate to the contrary.
The Senate had on September 27, 2016, alleged that MTN in connivance with the Minister of Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah, and four commercial banks exploited the porous Nigerian financial system to move the money out of the country without the required authorisation.
The upper legislative chamber according to a motion moved by Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West) on September 27, alleged that MTN smartly beat Nigeria’s financial regulatory laws by failing to obtain a certificate of capital importation (CCI) as authorised by CBN Financial and Miscellaneous Act within 24 hours between 2006 and 2016 before moving the money out of the country.
It further alleged that the repatriation was done through four banks, viz: Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Diamond Bank and Citi Bank.