The Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed December 4, 2018 to hear the suit filed by MTN Nigeria Communications to challenge directive of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the return of $8.1 billion.
The amount, the CBN alleged was illegally repatriated from Nigeria, using some four local banks, which have been fined various sums for the Forex remittance infractions.
At the hearing on Tuesday, MTN was represented by Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who led 14 other lawyers. On the CBN legal team were Mrs Seyi Sowemimo (SAN) and Ademola Akerele (SAN).
The Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), who was joined as the 2nd defendant in the suit was however, absent and was not represented in court.
While adjourning the suit till December 4, 2018, for the hearing of all pending applications, the presiding judge, Justice Saliu Saidu, directed that hearing notice should be served on the Attorney General of the Federation.
In the suit, the telecommunications giant urged the court to declare that “the 1st defendant’s decision in its letter of August 28, 2018, addressed to the plaintiff and titled, ‘Investigation into the remittance of foreign exchange on the basis of the illegal capital importation certificates issued to MTN Nigeria communications limited’ were reached in breach of the plaintiff’s right to fair hearing.”
The firm wants the court to hold that the CBN “lacks the power to determine the civil obligations or penal liabilities of the plaintiff.”
However, the CBN, in its statement of defence and counter-claim, urged the judge to dismiss MTN’s suit, insisting that the telecommunications giant must refund $8.1 billion to the Federal Government. The AGF on his part has yet to file any defence.
The dispute over $8.1 billion repatriated funds started when the CBN alleged that MTN used improperly issued certificates to transfer funds out of Nigeria after the telecom giant converted shareholder loans in its Nigerian unit to preference shares in 2007, but MTN denied the allegations.
The apex bank said MTN’s banks failed to verify that the telecom group had met all the country’s foreign exchange regulations.