Less than four weeks after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) slammed heavy fines on four banks and MTN, there is the likelihood that the apex bank might reverse the fines.
An indication to this emerged, on Wednesday, in a statement by Mr. Isaac Okorafor, the CBN spokesman.
According to him, “the banks and MTN are engaging the CBN, and have provided additional information which is currently being reviewed with a view to arriving at an equitable resolution”.
Recall that on August 29, CBN slammed N5.87 billion fine on four banks and ordered them to refund over $8.13 billion with largest mobile telecommunications operator, MTN, for “flagrant violation of extant laws and regulations of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including the Foreign Exchange (Monitoring and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1995 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Foreign Exchange Manual, 2006.”
The four banks sanctioned were Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic-IBTC, Citibank and Diamond Bank.
Announcing the sanctions, Okorafor said CBN’s actions became necessary following allegations of remittance of foreign exchange with irregular Certificates of Capital Importation (CCIs) issued on behalf of some offshore investors of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited and subsequent investigations carried out by the apex bank in March 2018.
“The CBN has, therefore, asked the managements of the banks and MTN Nigeria Communications Limited to immediately refund the sum of $8,134,312,397.63, illegally repatriated by the company to the coffers of CBN.
“The breakdown of the penalties shows that the highest fine of N2,470,604,767.13 was imposed on Standard Chartered Bank, while Stanbic IBTC Nigeria was fined N1,885,852,847.45. For its punishment, Citibank Nigeria was penalised N1,265,541,562.31, just as Diamond Bank was directed to pay N250 million.”
But a press statement by Okorafor on Wednesday stated that, “The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) acknowledges the public interest over sanctions recently imposed on four deposit money banks (DMBs).
“We wish to restate that the CBN will continue to welcome foreign investments and investors. Indeed, some of our recent innovations and reforms of the Foreign Exchange regime such as the introduction of the NAFEX window, are designed to simplify foreign exchange regulations.
Furthermore, the delegation of the issuance of Certificates of Capital Importation (CCIs) to commercial and merchant banks some years ago was done to instill confidence in the investor community and encourage the flow of foreign direct and portfolio investments into the Nigerian economy.
“The recent sanctions on the banks arose due to irregularities with respect to repatriations made on behalf of MTN Nigeria Limited and were not in any way designed to restrict access to investor returns.
“In response to the recent regulatory actions, the Banks and MTN are engaging the CBN and have provided additional information which is currently being reviewed with a view to arriving at an equitable resolution.
“We assure all investors that the integrity of the CCI regime remains sacrosanct and there shall be no retroactive application of foreign exchange rules and regulations.
“The CBN welcomes all legitimate investors to take advantage of the enormous investment opportunities in Nigeria.”