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Just in: AGF hands off, refers MTN’s alleged revenue indebtedness case to FIRS, NCS

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The Federal Government Friday soft-pedalled its earlier hard stand on MTN Nigeria over allegations of revenue indebtedness valued at N242,244,452,215.97 and USD$1,283,610,357.86 as the Chief law officer of the land has recused himself from the matter and referred same to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

Accordingly, MTN Nigeria is pleased to report that its legal counsel has received a letter dated 8 January 2020 from the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (the AGF) formally withdrawing his demand for alleged revenue indebtedness.

In a statement issued by the firm and signed by Company Secretary, Uto Ukpanah, MTN Nigeria made it clear that “The letter confirmed that following careful review and due consultation with relevant statutory agencies, the AGF has decided to refer the matter to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) with a view to resolving contentious issues.”

“MTN Nigeria will consequently follow due court process to withdraw its legal action against the AGF and engage with the FIRS and NC on the issues. MTN Nigeria remains committed to conducting its business in accordance with applicable laws in Nigeria.

In his remarks, MTN Nigeria CEO, Ferdi Moolman, who expressed satisfaction at the development, said “we are very pleased with the decision of the AGF and we commend him for his wisdom. We maintain our dedication to building and maintaining cordial relationships with all regulatory authorities in Nigeria and remain fully committed to meeting our fiscal responsibilities and contributing to the social and economic development of Nigeria.”

Business Hilights recalls that on October 30, 2019, a Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos had set for hearing the matter between MTN Nigeria and the attorney-general of the federation for January 30 within the same period the telecom giant released unaudited results for the nine months ended September 30, 2019/

MTN Nigeria had made it clear immediately the Federal Government approached the Federal High Court that “We remain resolute that MTN Nigeria has not committed any offence and will continue to defend this position,” MTN said.

Rewind to September 2018, when Abubakar Malami, the attorney general of the federation, had demanded that MTN pays $2 billion in tax arrears which cover import duties, value added tax (VAT) and withholding taxes on foreign imports/payments.

Then, Malami averred that his office made a “high-level calculation” that MTN should have paid approximately $2 billion in taxes relating to the importation of foreign equipment and payments to foreign suppliers since 2008.

However, in response, MTN had described it as “regrettable and disconcerting” that the case has been reopened despite multiple tax assessments carried out over the years.

“MTN has conducted a detailed review of these claims and provided evidence of tax remittance to the Attorney General’s office,” it said.

“The Attorney General’s notice indicates that he is rejecting this evidence. We believe that all taxes due to the Nigerian government have been paid and these allegations have not been raised by any of the revenue-generating agencies that MTN engages with regularly, and from whom MTN has received numerous awards for compliance.”

Within the period, MTN Nigeria had sued the federal government to the tune of N3 billion in damages and legal costs.

With the turn of events, it was clear if the leading telecom investor will reconsider its damages and legal costs suit in view of the sudden U-turn of the government on the matter even though the tease statement was silent on it.

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