The crisis involving MTN Nigeria and the country's finance sector regulator, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has taken a new turn with the introduction of a lawsuit by MTN which is seeking a restraining order against CBN to protect its assets and shareholders' rights.
Tobe Okigbo, MTN Nigeria corporate relations executive said the operator decided to seek the legal option as a means of having absolute clarity on the nature of the allegations being made by the CBN and Nigeria's Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) against MTN, and the processes that are being followed.
"In the absence of this clarity, our only option is to seek judicial intervention and to ask the courts to act as adjudicator. This has been done today (Monday)," Okigbo said.
Okigbo noted that issues surrounding the allegations are complex and are easily misunderstood and misinterpreted.
"They are made even more confusing when the relevant authorities send conflicting messages and instructions and act in a way that appears un-coordinated and at cross purposes," he said.
While CBN accused MTN of improper dividend repatriations and demanded the operator repay US$8.1 billion in exchange for local currency, the AGF also accused MTN of unpaid taxes on foreign payments and imports totalling US$2 billion.
In a related development, the CBN has gone ahead to debit the account of the banks that were implicated in MTN's illegal repatriation of foreign exchange.
The apex bank carried out its threat to debit Standard Chartered Bank with N2.4 billion, Stanbic IBTC N1.88 billion, Citibank Nigeria N1.2 billion and Diamond Bank N250 million
In a notice to its shareholders that was made available to ITWeb Africa, Stanbic IBTC said the CBN has debited its account the full penalty it announced totalling NGN1.886 billion.
Stanbic IBTC stated: "We maintain our position on this matter, which is the fact that the Bank has done nothing illegal and accordingly the Bank will continue to provide CBN with documents and details in support of our contention that our actions in relation to these transactions were not illegal."
Olakunle Ezun, Head of Treasury at Ecobank Nigeria, said, "It is easier for the regulator to sanction them than MTN Nigeria. What the CBN did was to debit the accounts of the banks directly and send them debit advice. The fine is going to affect the banks profit and loss accounts for the year but the impact will be different across the banks."