Nigerian Senate withdraws report exonerating MTN

WEB_PHOTO_MTN_20_PM_200616

Africas largest mobile operator MTN is talking up its newly appointed CEO Rob Shuter. It says he has the relevant experience in telecommunications to take the company to new heights.

Africas largest mobile operator MTN is talking up its newly appointed CEO Rob Shuter. It says he has the relevant experience in telecommunications to take the company to new heights.

WEB_PHOTO_MTN_20_PM_200616

Africas largest mobile operator MTN is talking up its newly appointed CEO Rob Shuter. It says he has the relevant experience in telecommunications to take the company to new heights.

Africas largest mobile operator MTN is talking up its newly appointed CEO Rob Shuter. It says he has the relevant experience in telecommunications to take the company to new heights.

ABUJA - Nigeria's Senate has withdrawn a report that largely exonerated South African cellphone giant MTN of illegally repatriating $14-billion.

The report, presented to the Senate on Thursday and reviewed by Reuters, was almost immediately sent back for further work because it did not capture possible infractions by all stakeholders, two people familiar with the matter said.

The upper house of parliament agreed in September to investigate whether Africa's biggest telecoms company unlawfully repatriated $13.92 billion from Nigeria - its most lucrative market which generates a third of its revenue - between 2006 and 2016.

MTN, which has denied any wrongdoing, could not immediately be reached for comment.

READ: MTN pays $98m part of Nigerian fine: officials

The crux of the allegation is that MTN did not obtain certificates declaring it had invested foreign currency in Nigeria within a 24-hour deadline stipulated in a 1995 law, and so the repatriation of returns on those investments was illegal.

The Senate formed a committee to investigate the allegations against MTN and financial institutions including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and commercial banks such as Nigeria's Stanbic IBTC Bank PLC.

The committee's report gave no recommendations for punitive measures against MTN.

Instead, the report rebuked Nigeria's central bank for its failure to monitor fund transfers to and from the country, calling its oversight of banks "inadequate".

The report recommended that the Senate "condemn the Central Bank of Nigeria for failing in its duty" to address problems with its monitoring of foreign exchange transfers.

The CBN's duty is to correct and, if needed, sanction banks and their customers for any wrongdoing, which it never did, said the report, adding that the central bank never testified to the committee that there were any infractions.

By never applying sanctions, the CBN had lent credence to the banks' argument that they were not breaking any rules by transferring foreign currency, the report said.

A CBN spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

However, the report also urged the central bank to "sanction Stanbic IBTC for improper documentation in respect of capital repatriation and loan repayments amounting to $388,195,183 and $199,440,952 respectively".

Stanbic IBTC was not immediately available for comment.

The findings were met with dismay by some in the Senate.

Senators did not understand why the report largely condemned the CBN while MTN and named commercial banks which transferred money overseas were barely reprimanded, said one of the people familiar with the investigation.

The document is a "poorly investigated report full of indecent holes", the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The report has now been "withdrawn for consultations and further legislative work", said the other person with knowledge of the investigation.