CBN, in London, says may renogatiate $8.1Bn MTN fine down

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* Global attention on the matter worries CBN

Just as the fine for breaching an earlier rule was negotiated down, the Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor (CBN) has said this time around, the $8.1Bn fine on MTN would be negotiated down.

The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, said in London its $8.1bn claim against MTN Group may be reduced after the telecoms giant and its bankers provided more documents which could help resolve the stalemate surrounding the initial fine.

The CBN had said in August that MTN and four banks — Standard Chartered Plc, Citigroup Inc., Stanbic IBTC Plc and Diamond Bank Plc — illegally repatriated money from Nigeria. The apex bank had ordered MTN to return $8.1 billion. The four banks were fined $16 million.

Speaking to reporters in London on Sunday, Emefiele said he expected that the new information would help cut the size of the claim and that the matter would be resolved “amicably.”

“I don’t think it will be at $8.1 billion having provided documents,” Emefiele said, adding his staff is studying the documents and he hoped to make a decision on the matter in a “couple of weeks.” Bloomberg said in a report.

MTN had gone to court in September to fight the claim in its biggest market, which was said to have wiped as much as 36 percent off its market value within two weeks.

The CBN had challenged the suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos asking the court to deny MTN’s request. The CBN rather demanded an annual interest of 15 per cent on the dividends until the matter is ruled upon, and then 10 percent until the whole sum is paid.

“They will see they have been given a fair hearing”, Emefiele said. “More information has been provided and I’m very optimistic that matters are going to be resolved amicably.’’

Emefiele, who is credited with helping stabilizing the naira and boosting Nigeria’s agricultural and local manufacturing during the recession, said the clash with MTN had taken a “global dimension” that it didn’t need to and that he was keen to demonstrate to international investors how open the Nigerian market is, calling the MTN matter “isolated’’ and no reason “for anyone to lose any sleep.’’

“This is not a matter that should have blown so openly,’’ he said. “Nigeria is a country that happens to be very, very open.’’