It appears the $8.1 billion dispute between MTN Group Limited and the Nigerian authorities will drag into the coming new year, as a judge in Lagos, today, adjourned the the case until January 22nd, 2019.
According to Reuters, the Judge’s decision to adjourn the case followed requests the legal counsels representing the Central Bank of Nigeria and MTN Group Limited.
In the meantime, the potential for an out of court settlement abounds. This is because one of the lawyers representing the telecoms company was quoted as saying that “we are still making moves towards an out of court settlement.”
A similar development
Just last week, Justice Saliu Saidu also adjourned a different $2 billion court case involving MTN and the office of Nigeria’s Attorney General till January 7th. The telco had been accused of owing the Government the sum of $2 billion in back taxes. It continues to deny this.
Note that the Attorney General (AG) is also a co-defendant in the $8.1 billion case. And during today’s hearing, counsel to the AG made known its client’s willingness to proceed with a settlement approach.
But any possibility for an out of court settlement for either one of the cases will remain just that — a possibility — until January 2019.
The Government’s serious demands
Recall the leading South African telco ran into yet another trouble with the Nigerian authorities when in late August, the central Bank of Nigeria sanctioned the company for allegedly violating Nigeria’s extant laws.
According to the CBN, evidence had emerged about how MTN’s Nigeria subsidiary used irregular Certificates of Capital Importation (CCIs) to move a total of $8.1 billion to South Africa on behalf of MTN’s offshore investors.
The authorities then demanded that the telco return the money to the company or face further sanctions. MTN, however, denied the allegations. Ever since then, both parties have been seeking a more peaceful resolution of the conflict.
It is important to mention that MTN Nigeria accounts for a third of MTN Group Limited’s market share in Africa.