By Michael Eboh
Against the backdrop of federal government’s sanctions on MTN Communications Nigeria, over tax audit, payments and revenue repatriation, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said yesterday that telecommunications giant, MTN, took the Nigerian government for granted.
She stated this while responding to a question on investor confidence, at the Nigerian Economic Summit (NES24#) in Abuja.
According to her, “the MTN incident was a very damaging for us. The big businesses took government for granted.”
She said that in as much as the federal government was taking steps to provide enabling environment to make the Nigerian economy attractive to investors, businesses must play by the rules.
She said that MTN ignored several request to respond to audit queries by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
According to her the process was more than two years but that after the decision was taken against the company, it promptly responded.
Mrs. Ahmed assured that the government was not after any business in the country and that she expected that there would not be a similar case, adding, “to those who are saying ‘which company next,’ there is no company next. We can’t afford another MTN incident.”
Speaking on the same issue, the Chairman of the NESG Committee on research, Dr. Doyin Salami said that it was appropriate for regulators to avoid actions that could create uncertainties in the system.
He however, insisted that illegalities must not be condoned. His words, “We need regulatory philosophy that understand the need for urgent growth. That is not to say that must condone illegalities.
“We need a regulatory environment where it is not first and foremost about revenue raising. But one that must understand and where possible you can understand and where possible you can predict what will happen next.
“Revenue raising is important but if you raise revenue must not be at the expense of output because if you do that then revenue raising will be at the expense of jobs. If you do you will be raising revenue at the expense and bad enough future capacity to raise revenue.”
Prof. Peter Lewis of the John Hopkins University who was a co-panelist at yesterday’s plenary, painted a picture that foreign investors were concerned about Nigeria’s sanctions against the MTN and that it had created fears among them (investors) concerning investing further in Nigeria.