MTN Nigeria denied allegations it illegally took $8.1 billion out of the country between 2007 and 2015, after being ordered to issue a refund to the Central Bank of Nigeria.

In a statement, the company “strongly refuted” allegations and claims from the bank that it failed to gain the required approvals to repatriate dividends amounting to $8.1 billion in the years between 2007 and 2015.

Nigerian authorities first accused MTN of improper repatriation of money in 2016, when it probed the company on its compliance with foreign exchange laws. However, a report issued in November 2017 by Nigerian lawmakers concluded the company did not “collude to contravene the foreign exchange laws”.

Following the Central Bank’s refund order, MTN said “the re-emergence of these issues is regrettable as it damages investor confidence and, by extension, inhibits the growth and development of the Nigerian economy”.

Financial Times reported the company’s share price dropped by nearly 20 per cent following the allegations.

“We will engage with the relevant authorities and vigorously defend our position on this matter and provide further information when available,” the company stated.

Indeed, MTN is no stranger to controversy in Nigeria. The company settled a long-running row with regulators in 2016, agreeing to pay the government a $1.67 billion fine for failing to register the personal details of 5.1 million subscribers.

MTN then agreed to launch an IPO in the country but, two years on, stock exchange officials said they are yet to receive a formal application.