Court bars FG from freezing MTN bank accounts

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Henry Ojelu

MTN Office
MTN Office

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday turned down an application of mareva injunction seeking to bar MTN Nigeria Communications Limited from emptying its accounts in 21 commercial banks in Nigeria.

The application had been filed to prevent MTN from boycotting the payment of the N1.04tn fine imposed on it by the Nigerian Communications Commission for its failure to deactivate its unregistered subscribers.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who filed the application on Tuesday, had expressed the fear that MTN could move all its funds out of the country before the N1.04tn fine could be enforced.

He had sought an order directing all the 21 banks to open a special interest-yielding account in the name of the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court and move N1.04tn out of whatever funds that was standing to MTN’s credit in their possession.

The counsel for the AGF, Mr. Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN), in a 14-paragraph affidavit deposed to by his junior, Steve Nwabueze, had argued that MTN was in the habit of regularly repatriating its funds out of Nigeria.

He noted that between October 2007 and May 2009, a period of 19 months, MTN moved over $7.7bn of the money made in Nigeria to a foreign account.

He further pointed the court’s attention to an instance when in one day, specifically on February 8, 2008, MTN transferred over $936m out of Nigeria to accounts in Mauritius, Cayman Island and British Virgin Island.

“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,” the AGF’s counsel added.

Okpeseyi maintained that MTN was under an obligation to pay the N1.04tn fine, because it was NCC’s administrative decision, which remained final unless it was reviewed by the commission or nullified by the court.

He said though NCC had earlier given MTN a concession on the fine and reduced it to N780bn, but since MTN had neglected or failed to pay on or before December 31, 2015, the fine remained N1.04tn.

He alleged that instead of taking advantage of the concession MTN resorted to filing a suit in order to buy time, with the hope that it could move all its funds out of Nigeria before the case would be decided.

Okpseyi urged the court to grant the application in the interest of justice to prevent the court’s decision from being rendered nugatory if it went in the favour of NCC and AGF.

But Justice Idris Mohammed turned down the application as he said the AGF had not shown enough facts to prove that MTN was about to empty its bank accounts and move its funds out of the country.

Idris, who noted that the case was sensitive and of public interest, said he would rather urgently hear the case filed by MTN to challenge the fine and give a judgment within a short time.

He, however, made an order for the parties to maintain status quo ante bellum pending the determination of the suit and adjourned till January 22, 2016 for hearing.

MTN had assembled seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria, led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, to challenge the N1.04tn fine imposed on it by NCC.

The company contended that NCC could not act pursuant to Section 70 of its establishment Act to impose the fine on it.

But Malami, who took sides with the NCC and justified the imposed fine, said it was his duty, as the chief law enforcement officer in the country, to ensure that all the laws made by the National Assembly are obeyed.


  1. francis

    This Sani Ango is a fool and I don’t think he is tune with what’s going on in the world and am of the opinion that he is law a breaker himself.
    This fine Is not the highest as you assume, the truth is that most judges in west and eastern Nigeria are corrupt and rotten and stench.
    This judges mostly connived with lawyers to give kangaroo judgments, take for instance if an accuse is taken to court in Kaduna he will quickly come to Lagos to take Order restraining that court “A” from prosecuting him.
    NCC made error by not taking order first and shut down MTN transmission.
    Judiciary is rotten and lost.

  2. ifediba Tobenna

    no body is above the law

  3. ifediba Tobenna

    no body is about the law

  4. Mandy Uwem

    I wonder how some people think. If other operators can meet the deadline why can’t MTN too. That company is made up of very dirty hearted Nigerians in Management position and very arrogant too like they are untouchable. They sack like they don’t care, outsource without notice and slash salaries of staff without notice. Very evil company making billions yet so hard hearted and dubious. I’ve never seen a company that lacks integrity like MTN Nigeria. The only company that will sue its staff for joining another competitor for N100m and place 4yrs trade restriction with competition on staff who it sacked unlawfully yet buying time at the NIC after being sued by 63 ex-staff the year it made billions as profit in 2009. The only company that will shut down operation in Jos without human face sending 1500 staff into the street without notice. Evil is MTN!

  5. AKIDO

    Given the high level of unemployment prevailing in nigeria what the NCC is doing with MTN will send the wrong signals to investors

  6. Sani Ango

    I cannot understand why the NCC is so keen on embarrassing Nigeria. This case cannot stand in any part of the world, and no Nigerian judge will entertain such madness in their court.

    What the NCC is saying is that MTN should pay the highest corporate fine in the history of the world! MTN is nowhere near the largest corporation in the world, neither is the offence it committed the most grievous.

    ENRON, with all the criminality it unleashed on Americans, and how much corruption, theft, and greed they unleashed on Americans, including all the losses of jobs, and monies of shareholders, they were not fined up to $2.

    If our Government is looking for money to finance our budget, which is already in gross deficit, they should come out and say so, then increase VAT as their guest of honour, Christine Lagarde advised. Not to impose an unrealistic, and destructive fine on one company for a mere oversight.

  7. Eze

    Since the judge has not been kidnapped nor any member of his family and mtn line used to demand ransom from him!!!

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