The government is ready to intervene in a dispute between telecoms company MTN Group and the Nigerian government, if MTN asks for help, Telecommunications Minister Siyabonga Cwele has said.
“If they need our assistance, then we will engage our counterpart in Nigeria,” Cwele said on the sidelines of a telecoms conference in Durban.
Cwele also said that MTN had told the South African government that talks continue between the company and the Nigerian government.
The MTN Group faces a $2-billion demand for taxes in Nigeria, the latest in a series of skirmishes with authorities in the South African mobile phone company’s most lucrative but increasingly problematic market.
The announcement of the tax bill incurred over the last decade came days after the west African country’s central bank ordered MTN’s Lagos-based unit to hand over $8.1 billion that it said was illegally sent abroad.
Mobile operator MTN disclosed it had been in talks with Nigeria’s Attorney-General about an investigation into tax compliance in a statement outlining the background to the case of the money sent out of the country.
“In this process, his [the Attorney-General’s] office made a high-level calculation that MTN Nigeria should have paid approximately $2 billion in taxes relating to the importation of foreign equipment and payments to foreign suppliers over the last 10 years,” MTN said.
MTN, whose Nigerian business brings in a third of its annual core profit, or Ebitda, said its total payment of about $700 million over the 10-year period fully settled the amount owing under the taxes in question.
The latest demands come two years after MTN, Africa’s biggest telecoms company, agreed to pay more than $1 billion to end a dispute with Nigeria over unregistered SIM cards. – Reuters