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Court Orders CBN To Grant HEDA’s Request Of MTN Improper Repatriation Of Funds

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, presided by Justice J.K Omotosho has ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to grant the Freedom of Information request by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre).

It ordered the apex bank to provide details concerning the resolution between CBN and MTN Nigeria Limited on charges related to improper repatriation of funds.

This was contained in a copy of the judgement of the court made available to journalists Sunday.

The Incorporated Trustees of HEDA Resource Centre had sued the respondent – the 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 22nd February 2021 sought an order of mandamus compelling the CBN to supply the information requested as contained in the applicant’s request dated the 20th of August, 2021.

The applicant sought an order of mandamus, compelling the Central Bank of Nigeria to provide the detailed information requested under the Freedom of Information Act. The respondent, in turn, filed a motion to strike out and/or dismiss the suit on grounds of jurisdiction.

In its quest for transparency and accountability, 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 the Central Bank of Nigeria to supply the requested information and comply with the application.

The respondent, Central Bank of Nigeria, 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 a decisive ruling, the Honorable Justice J.K Omotosho ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria to provide the information outlined in the applicant’s request dated August 20, 2021.

On January 10, 2024; Justice J.K Omotosho ordered, “That the respondent supply the information requested, as contained in the Applicant’s Request dated the 20th of August, 2021 attached to the Affidavit in Support of this application as Exhibit HEDA I, to Wit: “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.

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 the coffers of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“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 a Lagos division of the Federal High Court entered the settlement terms as its judgment. Parties to the settlement had refused to disclose the terms of the settlement even in the court.

The Nigerian Senate had alleged an attempt by officials in government, in cahoots with officials of the company, surreptitiously working to reduce the fine from $8.1b to a paltry $800m.

“The failure to disclose the terms of the settlement, despite allegations of conspiracy and compromise by the Senate, prompted HEDA to demand this information under the FOI Act. Sadly, further investigation revealed the terms of settlement were not in the case file, as claimed by parties to the agreement.

This ruling reinforces the principles of transparency and accountability embedded in the Freedom of Information Act, marking a significant victory for HEDA Resource Centre in their pursuit of essential information related to the MTN Nigeria Limited case.

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