A law firm, Tope Adebayo Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), which was hired by the Federal Government to recover illegally repatriated revenues of about $14 billion from Nigeria by mobile telephony company, MTN, between 2006 and 2016 has accused the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) of refusing to cooperate with it.
The firm, which is also handling the Abacha loot recovery on behalf of the Nigerian government, made the accusation in a letter addressed to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami.
The accusation of illegal repatriation of revenues was first made in September 2016 in a motion moved at the Senate by Mr. Dino Melaye, who requested an investigation into the matter. The Senate motion named Stanbic IBTC, Standard Chartered Bank, Citigroup and Diamond Bank as institutions involved in the alleged illegality, while Trade and Investment Minister, Mr. Okechukwu Enelamah, was alleged to be among those who conspired with MTN to repatriate the funds.
In the letter to the AGF, dated 5 January, the law firm stated that it was engaged by the Federal Government on 27 March 2017 and instructed carry out forensic analysis on the illegally exported revenues. To execute the assignment, the firm said it wrote to the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele on 4 October 2017, advising him to take a series of enforcement actions.
Among these, said the law firm, was the issuance of an order to SCBL to desist from using and or causing anyone to use any of the 79 irregular Certificates of Capital Importation (CCIs) for foreign remittances to the respective individuals or corporate entities listed against each of the CCIs or for remittances to any other persons or entities not listed and refund the sum of $10, 889, 534, 833.00 to the Central Bank of Nigeria.
It equally advised that an order be issued to CNL to cease and desist from using or causing anyone to use any of the seven CCIs transferred to SCBL and any of the 18 irregular replacement CCIs for foreign remittance(s) to the respective individuals and (or) corporate entities listed against each of the CCIs and (or) for remittance(s) to any other persons or entities not listed and refund the sum of $2, 301, 263, 212.75 to the CBN.
It similarly advised that an order be issued to SIL to desist from using and (or) causing anyone to use any of the 225 CCIs for foreign remittance(s) to the respective individuals and corporate entities listed against each of the CCIs or for remittance(s) to any other persons or entities not listed.
The law firm disclosed that in a letter, dated 20 October 2017, the CBN’s Director of Trade and Exchange Department informed it that the CBN had “commenced special examination to validate the claims stated” in the firm’s letter to the CBN Governor and would revert in due course.
In an attempt to continue its work, the law firm said it requested for an update on the special examination in a letter dated 15 November 2017. However, the CBN neither acknowledged the letter nor provided the requested update. Another letter requesting an update, said the law firm, was written on 22 December 2017. This was equally ignored, as the CBN has failed to respond to the request.
On account of the unwillingness of the CBN to cooperate, the firm urged the AGF to intervene and direct the CBN to provide an update on the special examination and other consequential enforcement actions.
When the allegation broke, MTN denied that it breached any law, saying it only failed to comply with the law requiring the issuance of CCIs within 24 hours of conversion because it was a mere “administrative requirement”.
At the opening of investigative hearing by the Senate Committee on Banks, Insurance, and Other Financial Institutions into the transfer in 2016, MTN said it was compelled by circumstances over which it had no control to move funds without the required authorization.
The CCI is a requirement under the CBN Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions Act. The company said it was impossible for it to comply with the 24 hours required to issue the CCI before moving funds.
“The requirement to issue a CCI within 24 hours of conversion is an administrative requirement. As such, the CBN has the authority, and, indeed we believe, approved the banks’ applications to issue CCIs outside the recommended time frame,” said the company in a statement at the time.