By Dipo Awojobi – A Federal High Court in Lagos has stopped the embattled MTN Nigeria Communications Limited from moving any existing funds from Nigerian banks abroad.
The order was granted following Government motion seeking to restrain 21 commercial banks from releasing money to the country’s biggest telecom provider.
The restriction will remain in force until the hearing of its suit challenging the N1,4 trillion fine imposed on MTN Nigeria by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
The motion read in part: “The FG seeks an order of Mareva injunction [a court order which requests assets be frozen] restraining the aforementioned banks from releasing, making a sale, transferring, or paying any of the monies maintained by the plaintiff MTN.”
MTN was initially slammed with a record $5,1 billion fine in October last year for failing to deactivate unregistered sim cards, which was later reduced to $3,9 billion.
The company is now challenging the fine in court contending that “the manner of the imposition of the fine and the quantum thereof is not in accordance with the NCC’s powers under the Nigerian Communications Act.”
However, MTN hopes to simultaneously maintain talks with the Nigerian government. It is currently embarking upon a major project to register the biometrics of its customers as an important security measure.