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MTN depleting foreign reserves via illegal access to dollars, CBN tells court

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Though yet to be proven, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in its counterclaim to the suit filed by MTN Nigeria over the recent sanction on transfer of $8.1bn without recourse to the official final approval for the Certificate of Capital Importation (CCI), has alleged that the telecom giant contributed to depleting the country’s reserves through the purchase of dollars via unapproved certificates.
Accordingly, as part of its claims and denial of any wrongdoing, the suit has been set for October 30, a lawyer for MTN, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), said weekend.
MTN had posited in court filing on Thursday that it paid the naira equivalent to purchase a total of $8.1bn from the central bank in several tranches over a nine-year period and that it did not negatively impair the reserves.
Business Hilights recalls that the economy had faced a severe shortage of dollars in 2016 caused by low oil prices, leading to a sharp devaluation of the naira. The currency crisis triggered a recession, which the country emerged from last year.
Besides, Nigeria has burnt reserves to keep the naira stable. Central bank data on Thursday showed that the bank spent $2.2bn in the month to October 16 to defend the currency, while the reserves fell to an eight-month low of $42.8bn.
Whereas the legal processes are on course, it was gathered that the apex bank officials met with MTN and its lenders last week to discuss the dispute.
This is as in another separate hearing between MTN and the Attorney General of the Federation over an alleged $2bn unpaid tax bill, adjournment has been made to November 8 at the same court in Lagos.
Both cases are bordering on allegations of abuse of extant laws of the land.
Industry analysts say back and forth pendulum of the CBN on the matter while the matter lasts in court may raise red flag on the ease of doing business rating of the country considering knocks and apprehension accorded to international investors like MTN Nigeria.

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