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Court adjourns hearing on FG’s $2bn tax dispute against MTN to Oct 29.
A Lagos division of the Federal High Court presided over by Justice Chukwujekwe Aneka has postponed hearing on the suit that MTN Nigeria filed challenging the legality of the assessment by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) of its import duties, withholding of tax and value-added tax in the sums of N242 billion and $1.3 billion to October 29 and 31 due to the inability of the government lawyer to produce its sole witness.
BusinesDay earlier reported that with the absence of a minister of justice following President Mohammadu Buhari’s inability to speedily assemble a cabinet, the task of going ahead with the case lies with the solicitor general.
However, there are speculations that even the Solicitor General may be unavailable which has led to an inability to file court papers on Tuesday. Now even the sole witness could not be produced hence the lead counsel to MTN, Wole Olanipekun, told the court that the government was unduly delaying the matter.
MTN had instituted the suit by a writ, dated Sept.10, 2018, challenging the legality of the AGF’s assessment of its import duties, withholding tax and value added tax in the sums of N242 billion and 1.3 billion dollars.
The suit which was earlier fixed for trial could not proceed on Wednesday, following the absence of a witness for the AGF.
When the case was called, Olanipekun (SAN) announced appearance for the plaintiff, while Mr T.A Mokolu and T. Adesanya, appeared for the AGF.
Adesanya said the government was unable to make it to court due to some challenges and the lead counsel, Tijani Gazali was also held up in Abuja. Based on this, he appealed to the court to grant an adjournment in their favour.
The plaintiff lawyer, Olanipekun, said he was not opposed to the request for an adjournment and would not also ask for cost, but noted that such adjournment was a drawback to the suit.
This adjournment will further delay MTN’s Initial Public Offer as its determination will materially affect MTN’s valuation. The government is seeking $2bn in back taxes, while MTN is valued at $5bn. MTN is also asking that costs in the sum of N3bn be awarded against the government.
MTN Nigeria listed by introduction 20.35 billion ordinary shares on the Premium Board of the Nigerian Stock Exchange on May 16, 2019, at N90 per share. This means that it did not sell any new shares.