The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has ordered that all dividends directed to MTN shareholders be suspended over the matter of alleged illegal repatriation of funds from Nigeria by the South Africa-based telecom company.
According to a The Guardian report, despite MTN's attempts, via a quarterly update to its shareholders, to clear the air that it was not guilty of the illegal repatriation charges levelled against by the Nigerian Senate, its shareholders are still calling for blood.
“Well, the accusation may be due to the payment of cash dividend to foreign shareholders in dollars without due approvals. But, we do not see any reason for the suspension of cash dividend if not that they have done something wrong. It is uncalled for. Dividend must be paid when declared. It is a debt,” said Timothy Olufemi, President of the Renaissance Shareholders Association of Nigeria.
The CBN has also instructed four banks: Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic IBTC, Diamond Bank, and Citi Bank, to suspend MTN's dividend payout from Nigeria.
Apparently, the Senate and the CBN are alleging that MTN did not obtain the proper certificates stating that it had invested foreign currency in Nigeria within a 24-hour deadline as outlined in a 1995 law. This, in turn, made the repatriation of returns on that investment illegal.
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However, Isaac Okorafor, a CBN spokesman, when reached for a comment, said he was not aware of such an order, Innovation Village reports.
To make the entire story even more bizarre, MTN, in a letter to its shareholders, confirmed that “MTN Nigeria, four commercial banks, certain MTN Nigeria directors and shareholders, the Central Bank of Nigeria and others appeared before the Senate on October 20, 2016, at the outset of this investigation.
“The allegations are that $13.97 billion was repatriated illegally by MTN Nigeria through its bankers. MTN Nigeria and its bankers are cooperating with the investigation with a view to resolving the matter as expeditiously as possible.
“In the interim, the CBN has instructed the banks to suspend any remittance of dividends until further notice. MTN Nigeria continues to refute the allegations that MTN Nigeria had improperly repatriated funds from Nigeria.
“Consequently, MTN Nigeria will strongly defend any action that would be prejudicial to its interest. MTN Nigeria has no intention to make any dividend payments over the next six months.
Controversial senator, Dino Melaye, originally made the allegations against MTN, saying the telecom company, in collaboration with four banks, exploited the Nigerian financial system to illegally move $13.9 billion out of the country without proper authorisation.