By Mark A. Upaa
Telecommunications firm, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, confirmed on Thursday that it had reached an agreement with the Central Bank of Nigeria over the $8.1bn fine placed on it by the apex bank for alleged forex remittance infractions.
MTN, through its lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN|), had sued the CBN and the Attorney General of the Federation before the Federal High Court in Lagos.
In the suit filed before Justice Saliu Saidu, the telecoms firm challenged the powers of the defendants to make the monetary demand from it and prayed the court to restrain them from coming after it. In the suit, marked FHC/L/CS/1475/2018, MTN had urged the court to declare that the CBN acted ultra vires its statutory powers when it wrote an August 28, 2018 letter to it demanding a refund of $8.1bn. MTN urged the court to hold that the CBN’s $8.1bn demand was “illegal, oppressive, abusive, unauthorised and unconstitutional.”
MTN further urged the court to declare that “the 1st defendant’s decision in its letter of August 28, 2018, with Ref No GBD/GOV/COM/DGF/118/121, addressed to the plaintiff and titled, ‘Investigation into the remittance of foreign exchange on the basis of the illegal capital importation certificates issued to MTN Nigeria Communications Limited’ were reached in breach of the plaintiff’s right to fair hearing.”
The telecommunications company also uged the court to void a September 3, 2018 letter written to it by the AGF, demanding $8.1bn as “penalties for the offence of ‘infraction of forex remittances’.” MTN had sought an order from the court “restraining the 1st and 2nd defendants from giving effect to the decisions, demands and directives in their letters of August 28, 2018, and September 3, 2018, respectively.”
The CBN, in its statement of defence counterd, while urging the court to dismiss MTN’s suit, insisting that the telecommunications firm must pay the prescribed fine of $8.1bn to the Federal Government. However, at the December 4, 2018 hearing in the case, the parties told the court that they were exploring the option of an out-of-court settlement and prayed for a short adjournment to be able to continue the negotiations.
When they returned to the court on January 10, 2018, MTN said through its lawyer, the parties had reached an agreement. A document was subsequently presented to the court containing the terms of the settlement between the parties, for adoption. Counsel for the AGF, Olanike Idenu, did not oppose the application by MTN and CBN but urged the court to strike out the name of the AGF from the suit.
Justice Saidu thanked the parties for saving the precious time of the court and sparing it the rigours of litigation. He then struck out the name of the AGF from the suit and adopted the terms agreed upon by the parties as the judgment in the suit.