MultiChoice in talks with Nigerian authorities over instruction to freeze its bank accounts

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Picture: File
Picture: File
  • Nigeria's tax authority alleges that MultiChoice Africa has not paid VAT since its inception.
  • MultiChoice says it is in talk with the authority over the matter.
  • The pay-tv operator is not the first South African compay to get itself in trouble in Nigeria authorities.

MultiChoice says it is in discussions with Nigerian authorities over the instruction it issued to local banks to freeze its accounts over unpaid taxes.

Early this month, media reported that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) wanted to recover 1.8 trillion naira (around R63 billion) from the pay-tv company in unpaid VAT. The Johannesburg-headquartered MultiChoice said on Friday it was "currently in discussion with FIRS regarding their concerns" and believe that the matter will be resolved amicably.

The company said it cannot give further details on the matter.

Last week, Vanguard, Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper reported that FIRS had raised alarm over the level of non-compliance by MultiChoice Africa, the parent company of MultiChoice Nigeria.

According to FIRS, the company has never paid VAT since its inception and appointed Nigerian Deposit Money Banks as agents to freeze and recover the sum of 1.8 trillion naira from the accounts of MultiChoice Nigeria and MultiChoice Africa, Vanguard reported.

FIRS executive chairman Muhammad Nami said the decision to freeze the accounts was as a result of the group's under-remittance of taxes and continued refusal to grant FIRS access to its servers for audit.

MultiChoice is not the first South African company operating in Nigeria which has found itself in hot water with authorities.

African’s largest telecommunications company, MTN, has faced various challenges by Nigerian authorities, including a fine of more than $5 billion (later reduced to $1.7 billion) in 2015 for failing to disconnect five million SIM cards that belonged to unregistered users.

Three years ago, the Nigerian central bank ordered MTN to return $8.1 billion in dividends which it paid to its parent company in SA. According to the bank, this was an illegal payment. Following lengthy negotiations, MTN made a "resolution payment" of $53 million. 

Shortly after that, Nigeria’s attorney general slapped MTN with a $2 billion tax bill for payments to foreign suppliers. This was later scrapped.

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