Lagos/Johannesburg — MTN Group has become a battleground issue for Nigerian politicians vying for ascendancy ahead of a national election in February, with $10bn worth of claims made against the cellphone network operator. The company is reeling from a double blow in Nigeria over the past week that has caused the stock to lose almost a third of its value. First, the central bank ordered MTN to return $8.1bn it allegedly illegally transferred out of the country, then the attorney-general’s office said the company owed $2bn in back taxes. The moves have come as President Muhammadu Buhari seeks re-election for a second four-year term. He has pledged to tackle corruption — including cracking down on tax dodgers and companies behaving in an unscrupulous manner. Central Bank of Nigeria governor Godwin Emefiele, who oversaw the sanction on fund transfers, has long been close to Buhari. By contrast, the ruling was criticised by Atiku Abubakar, a former vice-president who is running to be pr...

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