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FG Fails To Stop MTN From Moving Funds Out Of Nigeria

The federal government has failed in his bid to stop MTN Nigeria Communications Limited from moving funds in its accounts in 21 commercial banks out of Nigeria.
Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Tuesday, January 12, made this ruling in an application of mareva injunction filed by the government.

The Judge ruled that the federal government has failed to place enough material before the court to prove that MTN was attempting to empty its bank accounts and move funds out of Nigeria.
The office of the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) had file the application to prevent MTN from boycotting the payment of N1.04 trillion imposed on it by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for  its failure to deactivate its unregistered subscribers, Leadership reports.
The government is seeking for an order compelling 21 banks to open a special interest-yielding account in the name of the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court and move N1.04tn out of whatever funds that were standing to MTN in their possession.
It was learnt that the government out of fear that MTN might move money out of the country before the N1.04tn fine could be enforced.
Lawyer’s to the federal government, Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN) in the 14-paragraph affidavit presented by one of lawyers in his chamber, Steve Nwabueze, alleged that MTN was in the habit of regularly repatriating its funds out of Nigeria.
Okpeseyi alleged that between October 2007 and May 2009, MTN move about $7.7bn of its money made in Nigeria to a foreign account.
The government’s counsel further disclosed that MTN allegedly transferred over $936m out of Nigeria to accounts in Mauritius, Cayman Island and British Virgin Island.
He said: “Unless this honourable court urgently entertains this application, the plaintiff/respondent would move its funds out of Nigeria, being the jurisdiction of this honourable court, and thereby frustrate the enforcement of the fine in the likely event that this honourable court sanctions the imposition of the fine.”
Okpeseyi argued further that MTN was under an obligation to pay the N1, 04tn fine, because it was NCC’s administrative decision, which stands except it was reviewed by the Commission or nullified by the court.
He added that instead of MTN taking advantage of the concession, it resorted to filling a suit in order to buy time, with the intention of moving all its funds out of Nigeria before the case would be decided.
The government’s counsel asked the court to grant the application in the interest of justice to prevent the court’s decision from being rendered nugatory if it went in the favour of the federal government and NCC.
The judge, has however, declined to grant the application on the premise that the case was very sensitive one and of public interest, stating that he would rather urgently hear the case filed by the MTN to challenge the fine and will give a judgment within a short time.
He urged both parties in the suit to maintain status quo ante bellum pending the determination of the suit and adjourned the case to January 22, for further hearing.
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