MTN accuses Nigeria’s attorney-general of acting beyond his powers

MTN Group Ltd. on Monday accused Nigeria’s attorney-general,Abubakar Malami, of exercising ‘powers beyond his limit’ in the $2 billion tax demand.

Rob Shuter, MTN CEO stated this at a conference call where MTN’s 2018 annual results were presented to the country’s executives and stakeholders.

Faulting the demand of the $2billion cash by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (OAGF), Shuter accused AGF Abubakar Malami, of “playing games” over the demand for the cash, which the government said was in tax arrears from the telecoms giant.

Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.
Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami.

“Look, I think if you look at our history for complicated tax disputes they can take years because you end up going through this tribunal, that tribunal etc. Now, of course, what’s odd about the Nigeria situation is it’s not the Commissioner for Inland Revenue that we have the dispute with. It’s the Attorney General, who is really not mandated to collect tax.

“So the legal process is basically saying you’re playing a game that you’re not meant to be playing. And when we talk to the tax authorities they have no particular quarrel with where we are with our various assessments. So either we get the thing chucked out early on and the issue is finished, or it is just one of these lingering things that roll around in the system for a while.”

A billboard advertising MTN telecommunication company is seen along a road in Lagos November 16, 2015. Nigeria is standing by a $5.2 billion fine imposed on MTN Group for failing to disconnect unregistered SIM cards though Monday's payment deadline may lapse while a company appeal is considered, Nigeria's telecoms regulator said.  REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye
A billboard advertising MTN telecommunication company is seen along a road in Lagos November 16, 2015. Nigeria is standing by a $5.2 billion fine imposed on MTN Group for failing to disconnect unregistered SIM cards though Monday’s payment deadline may lapse while a company appeal is considered, Nigeria’s telecoms regulator said. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

The MTN Boss claimed that the audit committees of both Nigeria and the group have gone through “this very thoroughly in terms of all our tax exposures”.

Nigeria demands $2 billion in arrears

In September, Abubakar Malami wrote MTN Nigeria, demanding the payment of $2 billion in tax arrears.

The demand, Malami said it was for a 10-year period on import duties, Value Added Tax (VAT) and withholding taxes on foreign imports/payments. MTN denied any outstanding taxes and sued the Nigerian government.

The court case which was postponed in December last year is due for hearing late March.

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