Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos has denied the Federal Government powers to seize all funds owned by MTN Nigeria Communications Limited in Nigerian banks, pending when the telecommunication company pays up the N1.4 trillion fine leveled against it by the NCC over its failure to deactivate unregistered sim cards.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), through his counsel, Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN), had in a motion filed before the court, expressed fears of MTN moving all its funds in Nigeria, since it was in their habit to do so.
According to the court paper, MTN had between October 2007 and May 2009 moved over $7.7bn of the money made in Nigeria to a foreign account. The telecommunications company had also on February 8, 2008, moved over $936m out of Nigerian banks to their foreign accounts.
“Unless this honourable court urgently entertains this application, the plaintiff/respondent would move its funds out of Nigeria, being the jurisdiction of this honourable court, and thereby frustrate the enforcement of the fine in the likely event that this honourable court sanctions the imposition of the fine,” counsel to the AGF said.
However in his ruling, the presiding judge, Justice denied the Federal governments application, stating that it had not provided any evidence showing that MTN was indeed moving its funds out of Nigerian banks. He said hearing on the case filed against the Federal government challenging the N1.4 trillion fine is more important and of public interest and will need to be heard soon so judgement can be delivered. He adjourned the case to January 22nd.