The CNB/MTN Issue: Questions Arising

The Central Bank of Nigeria announced on Wednesday, 28th August, 2018, that it is imposing sanctions on four (4) banks for facilitating the ‘illegal’ repatriation of capital from Nigeria on behalf of MTN Nigeria and its shareholders. This surreptitiously followed the publication of an ‘exclusive’ in Sahara Reporters alleging that  Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, was reluctant to fine unspecified individuals and corporate bodies other entities for unlawful conduct in respect of repatriation of dividends to offshore shareholders of MTN Communications Nigeria Limited.

This follows in the heels of a N330 billion fine that was imposed on the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) company by Nigeria’s telecommunication regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in October, 2015.

The hefty fine has since resulted in a very significant fall in MTN Nigeria’s share price and the timing of the fining, coupled with continuously rising red flags has developed intense speculation as to the veracity of the allegations that have been made.

This has brought to the fore certain issues that require answers:

The DSS and National Assembly investigations’ were completed  in 2016 and 2017, what has spurred on the CBN to act at this moment? If the Central Bank of Nigeria  has approved the accounts of these (Standard Chartered, Stanbic, Citibank and Diamond)

banks for the last ten years and continued to approve the repatriation of funds by MTN, then could it have knowingly approved transactions it believed to be fraudulent?

When  did the CBN determine that MTN and the banks were culpable of such ‘illegal conducts’ and what has caused the CBN to allow MTN to repatriate funds since 2015?

Why do the these infractions cover only the period 2007 to 2015? What conditions changed in 2015? Does this allude to the fact that all MTN dividend and capital repatriation payments since 2015 will be deemed illegitimate or fraudulent? If so, how will that be possible, with the same CCIs issued?

These niggling questions need to be answered as soon as possible as investor confidence in Nigeria is quickly depleting as a result of the recent actions of NCBN.


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