Nigeria’s CBN Gov Laments ‘Global Dimension’ Assumed By $8.1bn MTN Issue

Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), on Sunday lamented the globalization of its issue with subsidiary of telecommunication giant- MTN Nigeria over an alleged illegal repatriation of funds valued at $8.13bn.
Addressing newsmen in London, he said the clash with MTN had taken a “global dimension” that was unnecessary, expressing a desire to demonstrate to international investors how open the Nigerian market is.
He described the MTN matter as “isolated,” following which there was no reason “for anyone to lose any sleep.’’
“This is not a matter that should have blown so openly,’’ he said. “Nigeria is a country that happens to be very, very open.’’
He also hinted of a possible reduction in the sum MTN Group is accused of illegally sending abroad in breach of foreign-exchange regulations with the aid of four banks which have been fined N5.67bn.
Reuters and Bloomberg also quoted Emefiele as saying: “I don’t think it will be staying at $8.1 billion,” adding his staff is studying the documents and he hoped to make a decision on the matter in a “couple of weeks…
“I want to believe that the figures will reduce. Whether they will be dropped completely, I honestly cannot say at this time.”
This optimism is based on the receipt by the CBN of documents some two weeks ago from MTN and the banks involved in the case: Standard Chartered, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Citibank and Diamond Bank – and was in communications with all parties involved.
The new information, he believes, would help cut the size of the claim
“They will see they have been given a fair hearing,’’ Emefiele said. “More information has been provided and I’m very optimistic that matters are going to be resolved amicably.’’
“The central bank will be examining these, then it will be escalated up to my level,” he said, adding he expected to get the results in a couple of weeks.
While MTN sought an injunction last month in a bid to buy time and fight the claim, which wiped as much as 36% off its market value within two weeks, the CBN had asked the Federal High Court in Lagos to deny the request. It also said the telco should pay an interest of 15% per annum on the dividends until the matter is ruled upon, and then 10% until the whole sum is paid.
Emefiele said the MTN case was a one-off, and the CBN was not looking at transactions involving any other companies operating in Nigeria.
“We respect the sanctity of these companies,” he said, adding that the CBN would continue to intervene in the foreign exchange markets, adding that he believed in a stable exchange rate regime.
Emefiele said Nigeria’s current stance of monetary tightening would continue.