MTN Group, Africa’s biggest mobile operator, will keep engaging with Nigerian authorities to resolve a US$10.1 billion dispute with the west African country, but is putting its faith in the courts to protect itself, its Chief Executive Officer, Rob Shuter said yesterday.
Reuters reported that the telecom firm, which makes about a third of its annual core profit in Nigeria, has said the allegations are without merit, but added that no further negative steps have been taken by authorities in Nigeria.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on August 29 ordered the South African firm and its lenders to bring US$8.1 billion back into Nigeria that it alleges the company sent abroad in breach of foreign exchange regulations.
MTN also faces a US$2 billion tax demand from the country’s attorney general.
MTN has denied any wrongdoing, and filed a court case against the central bank.
“We have continued engagement with authorities, exchanging documentation and there is genuine will to reach an amicable situation,” Shuter said on a conference call.
“However, we need to protect ourselves and we are relying on the courts in Nigeria to make sure there’s an amicable resolution.”
A court hearing between the central bank and MTN on the US$8.1 billion repatriation case is scheduled for Tuesday (today).
Shuter said investors should note that the company did not expect a resolution to come through then.
“No further negative steps have been taken by the authorities in Nigeria, however it is important to keep legal steps going,” Shuter said, adding that MTN was not carrying out any repatriations from Nigeria for now.
“Tomorrow (today) we are likely to have an adjourned date because more information will likely be requested, however, it is important to create an environment to look for continued solutions.”
Shuter said although it had been a difficult quarter due to the regulatory challenges in Nigeria, the company still managed to put in a strong performance in Africa’s biggest economy with data revenue growing.
MTN said its debut stock market listing in Nigeria may slip into early 2019 because it needs to work on the format for the share sale.
It reported a 1.1 percent rise in quarterly user base, helped partly by strong performances in Nigeria.
The company said its user base increased by 2.5 million subscribers to 225.4 million users in the quarter ended September, and mobile money customers grew by 1.7 million to 25.8 million users.
Mobile money customers charge their phones with cash, and send it to friends or family via the short message service.
These counterparties can then make similar transfers or cash in their credits with pre-approved agents, such as merchants or banks.
Nigeria’s Ranking on Governance in Africa Drops
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation has revealed that Nigeria scored 47.9 in overall governance, ranking 33 out of 54 countries in Africa.
Although Nigeria increased in ranking from 35 in 2017 to 33 in 2018, the country’s overall score dropped from 48.1 to 47.9.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports, the 2018 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) was launched by the foundation during a live event yesterday.
The report noted that the score is lower than the African average of 49.9 and also lower than the West African average of 54.3.
The report stated that Nigeria received its highest category score in Participation and Human rights, scoring 53.2, and its lowest score in Sustainable Economic Opportunities is 43.5.
It further showed that Nigeria received its highest sub-category score in Participation snagging 62.7 and it is the lowest in Transparency and Accountability scoring 34.5.
The 2018 Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) covers 10 years’ worth of data from 2008 to 2017 inclusively for 54 African countries.
Reflecting on the 2018 Index report, Mo Ibrahim, Chair of the Foundation, said: “There are many positive trends emerging from this year’s index.
“Fifteen countries out of the 34 which register progress in Overall Governance over the last decade even manage to accelerate their pace of improvement in the last five years. “Among those, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, and Kenya displayed the most impressive progression, stepping up from 41st, 25th and 19th to 22nd, 15th and 11th ranks respectively over the past decade.
“On average on the continent, improvements in indicators related to health and infrastructure stand out. ”There are also recent and welcome improvements in Rule of Law and Transparency and Accountability even if scores in the latter are still low,” Ibrahim said. The Foundation was established in 2006 with a focus on the critical importance of leadership and governance in Africa by providing tools to assess and support progress in leadership and governance.
The IIAG provides an annual assessment of the quality of governance in African countries and is the most comprehensive collection of data on African governance.