MTN Nigeria is seemingly stuck with bad luck in Nigeria. It's like every time the company solves one problem, two more show up.
First was the whole NCCfine drama, then the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) filed a N16 billion copyright lawsuit against it, and now, the latest is that the Nigerian Senate is conducting an investigation into allegations of MTN illegally transferring $12 billion out of Nigeria over a 10-year period. Whew.
Popular playboy Senator Dino Melaye first made the allegation on Thursday last week at the senate, requesting permission to further pursue the matter.
In his words, “MTN Nigeria paid a sum of $284.9 million on the 6th of February, 2001, to purchase their licence of operations in this country. Between 2006 and 2016, through four Nigerian Banks and a serving minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, MTN moved over $12 billion out of Nigeria. That is about half of our external reserves. If I get the nod of the Senate I will want to bring a substantive motion on the next legislative day with substantiated facts to buttress this position.”
He further adds, “All hands must be on deck to recover every loot in the country. We are in a precarious situation and now is the time to recover every stolen money in the country.” Subsequently, Senate president Bukola Saraki gave the go-ahead.
MTN is not having it though. In a press statement, the telecom company said, “The reports refer to allegations made on the floor of the Senate that MTN had illegally repatriated $13.92 billion out of Nigeria over a period of 10 years in collusion with a number of commercial banks.”
CEO Ferdi Moolman also added his own two cents, saying, “The allegations made against MTN are completely unfounded and without any merit.”
This is not the first time MTN Nigeria will be accused of tax evasion in Nigeria. Back in 2015, Premium Times conducted an investigation concerning this same tax evasion matter and it concluded that it MTN was evading tax by using transfer pricing to move its profits offshore, and creating artificial operational costs.
If the investigation which the Senate wants to conduct concerning these allegations turn out to implicate MTN, it would mean the South Africa-based telecom company has been dodging tax in Nigeria - its biggest market - for about 10 years. This could be a long ride.