Court Rejects Application To Seize Mtn’s Funds
SAN FRANCISCO, January 12, (THEWILL) – A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Tuesday has refused to grant an order to stop MTN Nigeria Communications Limited from moving its funds in 21 Nigerian banks out of the country.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who filed the application on Tuesday , expressed the fear that MTN could move all its funds out of the country before the N1.04tn fine could be enforced.
He had sought an order directing all the 21 banks to open a special interest-yielding account in the name of the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court and move N1.04tn out of the funds belonging to MTN into it.
The counsel for the AGF, Mr. Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN), in a 14-paragraph affidavit deposed to by a lawyer in his chamber, Steve Nwabueze, had argued that MTN was in the habit of regularly taking its funds out of Nigeria.
“Unless this honourable court urgently entertains this application, the plaintiff/respondent would move its funds out of Nigeria, being the jurisdiction of this honourable court, and thereby frustrate the enforcement of the fine in the likely event that this honourable court sanctions the imposition of the fine,” the AGF's counsel added.
Okpeseyi maintained that MTN was under an obligation to pay the N1.04tn fine because it was NCC's administrative decision which was binding, unless it was revoked by the commission or by the court.
He said that the NCC had given MTN a concession on the fine and reduced it to N780bn, but since MTN had failed to pay on or before December 31, 2015, the fine remained N1.04tn.
He alleged that instead of taking advantage of the concession, MTN resorted to filing a suit in order to buy time, with the hope that it could move all its funds out of Nigeria before the case would be decided.
However, Justice Mohammed Idris refused to grant the order as he said that the AGF had not shown enough facts to prove that MTN was about to move its funds out of the country.
Idris, who noted that the case was sensitive and of public interest, said he would rather urgently hear the case filed by MTN to challenge the fine and give a judgment within a short time.
He, however, ordered the parties to maintain the status quo ante bellum pending the determination of the suit and adjourned till January 22, 2016 for hearing.
MTN had assembled seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria, led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, to challenge the N1.04tn fine imposed on it by NCC saying that the commission could not act pursuant to Section 70 of the NCC Act to impose the fine on it.