23 Oct $8.1bn refund: MTN took govt for granted, says finance minister – ‘Telecom firm only responded after CBN’s sanction’
Big businesses operating in Nigeria take the Federal Government and stipulated regulations for granted, the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, declared on Tuesday.
Ahmed, who was responding to a question on the recent sanction that was imposed on MTN Nigeria Communications Limited by the Central Bank of Nigeria, while speaking during a session at the 24th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja, stated that the telecommunications firm only provided what the CBN requested after the bank ordered it and some affected Deposit Money Banks to refund about $8.1bn.
She said, “The MTN incident was a very damaging one for us and that was one of the reasons why we have been out trying to engage our investors. But you see there is a tendency for big businesses to take regulation and government for granted.
“Only after that incident happened, all of the information that the CBN had been trying to get for months actually came out. Now, I think they are up to a point where they have almost solved the problem.
“And this is information that the CBN governor had personally met with MTN, with the key banks involved and had asked them to provide the information,”
On August 30 this year, The PUNCH reported that the CBN imposed heavy fines totalling N5.87bn on four banks under its regulatory purview for alleged illegal funds repatriation.
It also directed the management of the banks and MTN Nigeria Communications Limited to immediately refund to the apex bank $8,134,312,397.63, which was said to have been illegally repatriated by the company.
The CBN had asked the banks and MTN to refund the money over what it described as ‘flagrant violation of extant laws and regulations of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1995 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Foreign Exchange Manual, 2006’.
The four banks that came under the sledge hammer of the CBN for the violations were Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic-IBTC, Citibank and Diamond Bank.
Speaking further in the development, Zainab stated that the information that was being requested for by the CBN from MTN and the banks had to do with an audit that took place over a period of two years.
She said, “It was an audit that took place over the course of two and a half years and the auditors were not satisfied with some of the information.
“They queried and they asked for additional information. Unfortunately, this was negative for us but is now being sorted out and we are bearing the cost of it. We have been engaging investors and trying to explain what is happening.”
Responding to the question on which company would be next to receive the kind of sanction MTN received, Ahmed said, “We are trying to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. We are continuously discussing with the regulatory authorities and there will be no company next after MTN. Nobody is next because we just can’t afford this kind of incidence to happen.”