By Tayo ABIOLA
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, has ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to provide details concerning the resolution between it and MTN Nigeria Limited on charges related to improper repatriation of funds.
The Incorporated Trustees of Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) had sued CBN, in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1110/2021 over the Apex Bank’s failure to provide the information requested from it on the details of the improper repatriation of funds complaints against the telecommunication company back in 2021.
HEDA, in a motion on notice, dated and filed on February 22, 2021, sought an order of mandamus compelling the CBN to supply information requested as contained in the applicants requested dated August 20, 2021.
In its quest for transparency and accountability, the Incorporated Trustees of HEDA sought comprehensive details regarding the resolution between the Central Bank of Nigeria and MTN Nigeria Limited. The information, requested under the Freedom of Information Act, aimed to shed light on the charges against MTN Nigeria Limited for improper repatriation of funds.
The relief sought by the applicant through its lawyer, Saidu Muhammed, was for CBN to supply the requested information and comply with the application.
CBN, through it counsel, Lukman Fagbemi (SAN) argued that it had promptly responded to the request on August 25, 2021, assuring the applicant that the requested information would be communicated in due course. The delay, according to the respondent, was attributed to the necessity of consultations required to ensure compliance with the application.
In his landmark judgment, Justice J.K. Omotosho ordered the CBN to grant the Freedom of Information (FOI) request by HEDA Resource Centre by providing the information outlined in the applicant’s request dated August 20, 2021.
The information sought by HEDA I, include: “The initial fine imposed on MTN Nigeria, the fine eventually paid by MTN Nigeria, the basis for the initial fine imposed on MTN Nigeria and any concession which led to a reduction of the fine; and the procedure through which the concessions were made.”
HEDA recalled that the Nigerian Government had accused the Mobile Telecommunication Company of illegally moving $8.1b out of Nigeria in contravention of foreign exchange regulations and demanded the return of the amount back to coffers of the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The body said while the bank proceeded to court to challenge the government’s decision, its lawyers announced an out of court settlement between the company and the Federal Government, confirming that a Lagos division of the Federal High Court entered the settlement terms as its judgment.