Nigeria and MTN trade legal arguments over $2bn tax bill

Lawyers representing Nigeria’s attorney general on Tuesday appeared in court to argue that telecoms company MTN Group did not have grounds to oppose a $2 billion tax bill, legal teams for both sides said.

MTN faces the demand from the country’s attorney general, a claim which the company has said is without merit. Nigeria handed MTN the tax bill in September, but the company said the attorney general had exceeded his powers in making the demand, Reuters reports.

Legal arguments were heard from both sides at a court in commercial capital Lagos on Tuesday.

Tijani Gazali, a lawyer representing the attorney general, said MTN did not file its legal opposition to the demand within the required three-month timeframe whereas Wole Olanipekun, representing the telecoms firm said that was not the case.

The case was adjourned until May 7.

MTN is Africa’s biggest telecoms firm and Nigeria is its largest market, accounting for a third of its annual core profit. However, the west African country has proven to be problematic for the company in the last few years.

In December, MTN agreed to make a $53 million payment to resolve a separate dispute in Nigeria after the central bank ordered the company and its lenders to bring back $8.1 billion it alleged was illegally repatriated using improperly issued paperwork between 2007 and 2008.

The settlement ended a four-month multi-billion dollar dividend repatriation row that had hammered its share price.

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