…As NDLEA freezes suspected Tramadol importer’s accounts***
A Federal High Court in Lagos has adjourned till Dec. 4, hearing in a dispute between MTN Nigeria and the Central Bank of Nigeria over alleged illegal repatriation of $8.1 billion by the telecoms company.
Justice Saliu Saidu also adjourned till Nov. 8, hearing in a case of $2.0 billion tax non-payment made against MTN Nigeria by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF).
MTN filed the suits. It is seeking an injunction to restrain the CBN and AGF from taking further actions to reclaim the alleged debts.
The CBN alleged that the telecoms firm improperly repatriated dividends. The apex bank requested that MTN should return $8.1 billion to its coffers.
On the other hand, the AGF claimed that MTN did not pay taxes on foreign payments and imports of approximately $2.0 billion. It demanded that the company should pay the sum.
MTN, however, denied the allegations.
On Dec. 4, the court will hear an interlocutory application by the MTN seeking to retrain the CBN from taking steps to reclaim the alleged debt.
The court will also hear an application by the CBN challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the case.
Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) appeared for the MTN while Mr Seyi Sowemimo (NAN) appeared for CBN.
In the meantime, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) has frozen bank accounts belonging to a suspected drug trafficker, Eze Remigus Rapuruchukwu.
The agency arraigned him at the Federal High Court in Lagos along with his companies, Chart Agency Ltd, Albrichris Impex Ltd as well as Emordi Collins and Emmanuel Ifebighi.
They were charged with seven counts of conspiracy and illegal importation of Tramadol.
NDLEA alleged that they operated a drug trafficking organisation between 2010 and last year and unlawfully imported 19 containers of the regulated drug.
Tramadol is a narcotic-like pain reliever used to treat moderate to severe pain.
While Rapuruchukwu, his companies and Collins were alleged to have illegally imported the drug, Ifebighi was alleged to have unlawfully removed the seized 19 containers loaded with Tramadol from Apapa Seaport.
The alleged offence is contrary to the United Nations Single Convention on Drugs 1961 and its Protocol and the Convention against illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance 1989, punishable under sections 11(a), 14(b), 16, 19, and 20(2) of the NDLEA Act of 2004.
The NDLEA had placed a no-debit order on Rapuruchukwu’s accounts.
But his lawyer, Mr. Collins Ogbonna, urged the court to de-freeze the accounts.
He said it was contemptuous of the agency to freeze the accounts, as a court had earlier lifted the order.
But NDLEA lawyer Mr. Lambert Nor said the restriction was placed on the accounts due to fresh illicit cash flow into them.
He said the new funds were not covered by any discharge order, adding that no order of the court precludes the NDLEA from executing its statutory mandate by going after other suspected drug money of the defendant/applicant.
Justice Saliu Saidu adjourned till December 11 for ruling.
Additional report from The Nation