MTN Nigeria says all dividends it paid to its shareholders between 2007 and 2015 were approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The telco was reacting to the claim by the central bank that it illegally converted shareholder loans to preference share and repatriated $8.1 billion as dividends during the period under scrutiny.
“MTN Nigeria strongly refutes these allegations and claims. 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,” Nigeria’s leading telco said in a statement issued on Thursday morning.
It promised to “engage with the relevant authorities and vigorously defend our position on this matter and provide further information when available”.
In 2015, the Nigerian government fined MTN N1 trillion for failing to deactivate unregistered lines, but the penalty was negotiated down to N330 billion out of which Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation, said his ministry paid N500 million to lawyers for helping with negotiations.
FULL TEXT OF MTN’S STATEMENT
MTN Nigeria Communications Limited (MTN Nigeria) received a letter on 29 August 2018 from CBN alleging that CCI’s issued in respect of the conversion of shareholders loans in MTN Nigeria to preference shares in 2007 had been improperly issued. As a consequence they claim that historic dividends repatriated by MTN Nigeria between 2007 and 2015 amounting to $8,1 billion need to be refunded to the CBN.
MTN Nigeria strongly refutes these allegations and claims. 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.
The issues surrounding the CCI’shave already been the subject of a thorough enquiry by the Senate of Nigeria. In September 2016 the Senate mandated the Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions to carry out a holistic investigation on compliance with the Foreign exchange (monitoring and miscellaneous) Act by MTN Nigeria & Others. In its report issued in November 2017, the findings evidenced that MTN Nigeria did not collude to contravene the foreign exchange laws and there were no negative recommendations made against MTN Nigeria.
MTN Nigeria, as a law-abiding citizen of Nigeria, is committed to good governance and to abiding by the extant laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The re-emergence of these issues is regrettable as it damages investor confidence and, by extension, inhibits the growth and development of the Nigerian economy.
We will engage with the relevant authorities and vigorously defend our position on this matter and provide further information when available.