Lawyers for the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and the leading telecommunications firm MTN have launched their initial legal fireworks at a Lagos High court where MTN is seeking to nullify a request on it to repatriate over eight billion dollars in dividend it is alleged to have illegally exported from the country.
The court has fixed hearing of the suit for October 30 while a separate hearing between MTN and the attorney general over an alleged $2 billion unpaid tax bill will be heard from November. 8 at the same court.
In a reply to claims by the CBN represented by the law firm of Ukiri & Lijadu, MTN’s team of lawyers led by Wole Olanipekun, SAN and including four other senior advocates -Babatunde Fagbohunlu, D. D. Dodo, Olabode Olanipekun and Fabian Ajogwu a law professor, said “there is no law or statutory provision in Nigeria which gives the defendant(CBN) the power to regulate the plaintiff(MTN).”
In the nine-page document filed with the court, the lawyers said their client was “accused of any wrongdoing or invited to be part of any investigation commissioned against it.”
The lawyers averred that the defendant(CBN) used an investigation commissioned against the defendant’s authorised dealers and agents, to wit the banks, to reach a punitive decision against the plaintiff and that MTN’s right to fair hearing was breached given a decision was reached against it as a result of a fallout of investigations against the banks.
“Further to (b) above, the defendant was not furnished with details of the allegations against the banks or charges against them”, the lawyers declared.
“The plaintiff is not vicariously liable for the actions of the banks who are authorised dealers of the defendant.
“It (MTN) did not concede to any wrongdoing as wrongly pleaded in paragraph 20 of the statement of defence. The letter of Standard Chartered Bank dated December 10, 2009 did not allege any wrongdoing on the part of the plaintiff. The letter of Standard Chartered Bank dated December 10, 2009 confirmed to the defendant that all the requirements pursuant to the satisfaction of the conditions for granting a final approval for the conversion of CCIs were met in February 2008.”
The lawyers further stated that MTN “has not breached any law with respect to repatriation of funds from Nigeria and the defendant’s allegations, are mainly generalised without reference to specific statutory provisions which breach is alleged.”
The lawyers said having admitted MTN’s right to alter its share capital, the CBN cannot take the contrary position that its(CBN) approval is necessary for the alteration.
According to the filing, MTN “is guaranteed unconditional transferability of monies imported into Nigeria.”
MTN said having admitted that it received Naira value for the $8,134,312,397.63 purchased by MTN, the CBN cannot claim the transaction by MTN has negatively impaired the welfare and benefits of all Nigerians.
In another section of the deposition, the lawyers said MTN “is not a threat to Nigeria’s economy but adds considerable value to the economy through provision of direct and indirect employment as the largest mobile telecommunication provider in Nigeria.”
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