How MTN’s inaction fuelled B’Haram insurgency, by Buhari
• ‘10,000 Nigerians killed’
• S’Africa will return confiscated money, says Zuma
• Reciprocate our hospitality, Dogara tells him
President Muhammadu Buhari has alleged that the failure of MTN Nigeria to disconnect millions of unregistered Subscribers Identification Modules (SIM) cards may have fuelled Boko Haram insurgency in the North East and led to the death of thousands of Nigerians.
Buhari who spoke during a joint media briefing with the South African President , Jacob Zuma who is on a two-day visit to Nigeria , also indicated that MTN could continue talks with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), though silent on the Federal Government’s next move.
On his part, Zuma promised that his government would return to Nigeria the money which was seized from officials of the Goodluck Jonathan administration who had taken it to South Africa to procure arms and ammunition.
In another development, Speaker, House of Representatives Yakubu Gogara told Zuma that his country should reciprocate the hospitality and immense goodwill it enjoys in Nigeria. He spoke during a vote of thanks following Zuma’s address to the joint session of the National Assembly yesterday.
In his first public comments since the crisis over the $ 5.2 billion fine blew open, last year, Buhari noted that the concern of government was not of the fine per se but more for the security implication of the negligence by the telecoms giant, which led to the imposition of the fine last year by the NCC.
“The concern of government was basically on security and not the fine imposed on MTN. You know how the unregistered SIMs were being used by terrorists between 2009 and today.At least, 10,000 Nigerians were killed by Boko Haram. That was why NCC asked MTN, Glo and the rest of them to register GSM subscribers .
Unfortunately, MTN was very, very slow and contributed to the casualties.
“NCC looked at the regulations and imposed the fine.Unfortunately for MTN, they went to court and once you go to court, you virtually disarm the government, because if the Federal Government refuses to listen to the judiciary, it would be going against its own constitution and therefore, government had to wait.
“I think MTN has seen that and decided to withdraw the case and go back and negotiate with government agencies on what they consider a very steep fine to be reduced or maybe given time to pay gradually, ” he said.
On xenophobia against Nigerians and other Africans living in South Africa, Zuma said it was unfortunate because all Africans are the same, but colonialists through borders have made them think that they are different.
“But we are the same Africans and that has been our view in addressing the issue of xenophobia. We would want our people all over Africa to realise that we are the same and have the same interests,” he said.
With the presidential declaration, MTN is now free to seek renegotiation on the N780 billion fine imposed on it by the NCC in October 2015 which has been a subject of controversy. The commission initially fined MTN N1.04 trillion for failing to disconnect 1.2 million unregistered subscribers, but later reviewed the sum downward to N780 billion. After missing repeated deadlines for payment, MTN announced late February it had paid N50 billion in “good faith” for the matter to be resolved. The company also announced the withdrawal of its lawsuit.
Zuma, who arrived at the forecourt of the President’s Office at exactly 10:00 a.m. on what many agree is a fence-mending visit was received by Buhari and some top government officials. He was given a 21-gun salute, inspected a guard of honour mounted by the Brigade of Guards before both leaders went in for a two-hour closed-door meeting
Addressing a joint session of the National Assembly parliament yesterday, Zuma who was led by Buhari to the National Assembly, specifically stressed the need for greater business to business engagements particularly in the areas where Nigeria has identified as potential growth sectors.
These, according to Zuma include the diversification of the economy, namely electricity generation and supply, agriculture and agro-processing, tourism development including the hospitality sector, mining, banking, infrastructure development, aviation, manufacturing and the automotive sector.
He said: “We must strive for the diversification of our economies, so as to cast the net wide enough to create more job opportunities for our people, to improve their living conditions and grow our economies through domestic resources in the first instance.
“In doing this, we would break away from the colonial legacy that turned Africa into providers of primary commodities and recipients of processed goods. This is important because the current state of affairs makes Africa vulnerable to the volatilities of the international economy that sustains the uneven terms of trade.”
While noting that the bilateral economic relations between the two countries had significantly improved in the last 16 years as evidenced by the growing bilateral trade figures and investments, he disclosed that there were more than 120 South African companies operating in Nigeria , a figure he said was a huge growth from a mere four companies in 1999.
“We must strive to bring the manufacturing plants closer to the sources of raw materials. South Africa and Nigeria can to a large extent complement each other towards the achievement of this.
“The current global economic climate, as the previous global economic crisis, has exposed the vulnerability of our economies and currencies and thus calls for concerted efforts toward South-south and intra-Africa cooperation.”