By Kenneth Atavti
A Federal High Court in Lagos, yesterday granted MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd, and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, till January 22, for a report of settlement talks in their $8.1bn reparation dispute.
Justice Saliu Saidu adjourned till January 22, after parties prayed for more time to forge a deal.
At the last hearing of the suit on December 4, the parties told the judge that they were exploring an out of court agreement following which the suit was adjourned for report of settlement.
At the commencement of proceedings on Wednesday, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) for MTN, Mr Seyi Sowemimo (SAN) for CBN, and Mrs Oluwakemi Kanbu, for the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, confirmed that a deal had yet to be reached.
MTN initiated the suit against CBN and the Federal Government.
Olanipekun said: “We were before this court on December 4, and told the court that parties were talking settlement. My Lord, the discussion is still ongoing and progressing.
“As a result of this, we seek further indulgence for a date in January, so we can inform your lordship on further developments. We are very much obliged,’’ he said
Sowemimo confirmed Olanipekun’s submission.
He said: “I confirm that we are still making moves for out of court settlement, and we will be available on January 22, 2019, subject to the court’s convenience.’’
Kanbu aligned with both submissions.
Following the development and based on agreement of parties, the court consequently adjourned until Jan. 22, 2019, for a report of settlement.
MTN filed the suit, seeking an injunction to restrain the CBN and AGF from taking further actions to reclaim the alleged debts.
The firm wants the court to hold that CBN lacks power to determine its civil obligations or penal liabilities.
It is seeking a declaration that the CBN acted outside its statutory powers when it wrote a letter to it on August18, demanding a refund of $8.1bn.
It wants the court to hold that the demand was illegal, oppressive, abusive, unauthorized and unconstitutional.
On its part, CBN alleged that the telecoms firm improperly repatriated dividends, and requested that MTN should return $8.1bn to its coffers.
Meanwhile, MTN filed a sister case before another judge of same court, Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, against the AGF, challenging a withholding tax assessment of 1.3 billion dollars and an import duty tax of N242 billion.
MTN queries these assessments.
Justice Aneke has fixed February 7, 2019 for hearing of all pending applications in this suit.