A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Tuesday turned down the application of the Federal government of Nigeria to freeze MTN accounts in Nigerian Banks.
In his ruling, Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos, denied the Federal Government powers to seize all funds owned by MTN Nigeria Communications Limited in Nigerian banks, pending when the telecommunication company pays up the N1.04 trillion fine leveled against it by the NCC over its failure to deactivate unregistered sim cards.
After negotiations with Nigerian authorities, the fine was reduced by 25% to ₦780-billion.
MTN has turned to the Nigerian courts in an effort to have the fine quashed.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), through his counsel, Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN), had in a motion filed before the court, expressed fears of MTN moving all its funds in Nigeria, since it was in their habit to do so.
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 the funds belonging to MTN into it.
“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,” counsel to the AGF said.
The judge however, turned down the application stating that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) did not have enough evidence to indicate that MTN would empty its accounts.