Reprieve may soon come the way of South African telecommunications services provider, MTN Nigeria, as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday said it may reduce the amount it was ordered to repatriate back to the country as part of an ongoing efforts to resolve disagreement with the firm.
Governor of the CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele, disclosed this on Sunday during an interview with newsmen in London.
MTN and the Central Bank are in a dispute over the transfer of $8.1 billion of funds which the bank said was sent abroad in breach of its foreign exchange regulations. Nigeria accounts for a third of MTN’s annual core profit.
“I don’t think it will be staying at $8.1 billion,” Emefiele said during a visit to London, adding he expected the issue to be dealt with “amicably and equitably”.
“I want to believe that the figures will reduce. Whether they will be dropped completely, I honestly cannot say at this time.”
Emefiele said the CBN had received documents some two weeks ago from MTN and four lenders involved in the case – Standard Chartered, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Citibank and Diamond Bank – and was in communications with all parties involved.
“The central bank will be examining these, then it will be escalated up to my level,” he said, adding he expected to get the results in a couple of weeks.
The two organisations are locked in a court dispute over capital importation transaction. The CBN had filed a counter-claim on Friday to a court request by MTN, which is seeking to stop the bank from forcing it to bring back the money.
But Emefiele said the MTN case was a one-off, and that the apex bank was not looking at transactions involving any other companies operating in Nigeria.
“We respect the sanctity of these companies,” he said.
Shares of MTN lost almost 5 percent over the past week over concerns about its disagreement with regulators.
Emefiele also said the apex bank would continue to intervene in the foreign exchange markets, adding that he believes in a stable exchange rate regime.
Nigeria has been battling to defend its currency and shore up its reserves of around $44 billion, hobbled by lower oil prices.
At the same time, the country has suffered from high inflation, which edged up to 11.2 percent at its last reading well above the central bank’s 6-9 percent target.
Emefiele said Nigeria’s current stance of monetary tightening would continue.