Senate seeks explanation on govt’s planned reduction of $8.1bn MTN fine

Chambers of the Nigerian Senate used to illustrate the story.
Chambers of the Nigerian Senate used to illustrate the story.

The Senate says it would demand explanation on why the federal government wants to reduce the $8.1 billion fine imposed on the communication giant, MTN, to $800 million.

The Senate said that though it was not particularly against whatever the government would want to do with the MTN fine, it should be intimated on why the reduction became necessary.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking , Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Rafiu Ibrahim (Kwara-PDP), told some journalists that his committee would immediately demand a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) report on the matter, to be better informed.

“The only way Nigerians would know what transpired between the CBN and MTN on the $8.1 billion fine is through a detailed report.

“It was gathered that the federal government, working through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, may have concluded arrangements to cut the $8.1 billion fine to $800 million through the back door. The Senate said it was interested in knowing the percentage of reduction from $8.1 billion to $800,” he was quoted as saying, by Vanguard.

Meanwhile, MTN’s Chief Executive Officer, Rob Shuter, has told Bloomberg the company is making “steady progress” with Nigerian authorities in talks about the fine.

The South African company is in ongoing discussions with Nigeria’s central bank and other institutions and is “narrowing down what the key issues are,” Mr Rob said in an interview in Cape Town on Tuesday.

MTN’s strategy is twofold: seek legal action while simultaneously looking for an amicable resolution, he said.

“We would like a resolution out of court and with normal engagements as that would be faster than a court process,” he said.

Mr Shuter’s comments indicate the two sides could be nearing a deal to resolve the dispute, which has been running since the central bank accused MTN, in August, of illegally repatriating $8.1 billion from the country.

That was followed by a secondary allegation – that the Johannesburg-based telecom firm owed $2 billion in back taxes, a matter set for a court hearing early next month.

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