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MTN says Nigeria’s attorney general exceeded powers in $2bn tax bill

The matter was seen before the Nigerian High Court.

Nigeria’s attorney general exceeded his powers in demanding $2 billion in taxes and charges from MTN Group, the telecoms firm said in papers filed with Nigeria’s High Court and reviewed by Reuters.

The papers, filed on Monday in a move by the Nigerian arm of the South African firm aimed at protecting its assets, also showed MTN was seeking 3 billion naira ($10 million) from the West African country in court and legal expenses.

Earlier this month, the Nigerian government handed Africa’s biggest telecoms company a $2 billion tax bill days after the central bank, in a separate move, ordered MTN’s Lagos unit to hand over $8.1 billion that it said was illegally sent abroad.

Nigeria, which accounts for a third of MTN’s annual core profit, is MTN’s biggest market. Some analysts see politics as a factor in the pressure on MTN as Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who took office in 2015 on promises to push through tougher regulation, is seeking re-election in 2019.

“The attorney-general of the federation (of Nigeria) acted illegally, unconstitutionally, and in excess of his powers” by implementing charges in a “self-assessment exercise” that related to customs, the inland revenue and import duties, the court documents state.

The attorney general’s spokesman did not immediately respond to phone calls and a text message requesting a comment. 

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MTN must not do the foolish thing it did the last time, when it suddenly folded its hand, ‘out of the goodness of its heart to negogiate in good faith’ with the authorities. There was no reason for that, what Nigerian authorities learnt from that is that they can always come and ‘blackmail’ the company and make increasingly ridiculous demands and claims. Take them to court and fight to the finish. And if the courts screw up, challange that too…let the international business community see them for what they are…they will show you. Keep fighting we will be looking to see their true colours.

I agree…theft under the guise of tax or a fine needs to stop now. Or at least be vigorously challenged. Doing business on Africa is not for the faint hearted. Fight fire with fire is the only way.

We have 54 countries in Africa, and there are many countries where people run businesses succsessfully every day. In countries like Rwanda and Kenya, you can register a business and be off and running in such a short time that it makes places like US and some European countries look like palookas. So, we must talk about the countries where corruption and lack of democratic practices are common and rife. Not bismich the name of the entire continent. Africa is not one country, it is 54 countries, and in some parts, those countries are split up into various components that believe themselves to be ‘indedpendent’ a good example being Somalia. So, give the parts where stuff is working a break… like Botswana, Morocco, Algeria, Senegal, South Africa, Namibia, and so on.

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