By: Sunday Ode, Abuja.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday explained that the Federal government slamed N1.04 trillion on MTN for security breach.
He said the failure of the mobile phone service provider to deactivate about 5.1 million unregistered SIM cards
necessitated the fine which was later reduced to N780 billion after negotiations.
Speaking for the first time on the matter, President Buhari noted that the concern of the government was the breach of security caused by the refusal of MTN to deactivate the unregistered lines rather than the fine imposed.
He spoke at a joint press briefing with his South African counterpart, President Jacob Zuma ,who is on a two-day state visit to Nigeria.
MTN had on Wednesday, February 24, withdrawn its suit at the Federal High Court, Lagos challenging the fine by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and paid N50 billion as part of the penalty.
Buhari blamed the telecommunications company for the death of some victims of the Boko Haram insurgency on the refusal of MTN to deactivate some unregistered lines.
According to him, the unregistered GSM lines were being used by terrorists, noting that between 2009 and today at least 10,000
Nigerians were killed by Boko Haram militants.
He said: “The concern of the Federal Government was basically on the security and not the fine imposed on MTN. “You know how the unregistered GSM are being used by terrorists and between 2009 and today at least 10,000 Nigerians were killed by Boko Haram, at least 10,000.
“That was why the NCC asked MTN, GLO and the rest of them to register GSM subscribers.
“Unfortunately MTN was very very slow and contributed to the
casualties. And NCC looked at its 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 refused to listen to the judiciary, it is going against its own constitution; therefore the 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 stiff fine to be reduced and maybe given time to pay gradually.”
On economic relationship between Nigeria and South Africa, he said: “I hope you will recall that even before the elections our party, the APC realised the state we are in and we articulated three areas, security, economy and corruption, and here we identified the role we can improve rapidly on our relationship with South Africa.
“In terms of the economy, we identified agriculture and solid minerals to come to fore quickly so that we get everybody who is unemployed, employed. South Africa is far ahead of us in agriculture and solid minerals. So in diversifying the economy I think that there is a great room for improvement which is for the better.”
Also speaking at the joint press briefing, President Zuma commented on the seized $9.3 million allegedly meant for the procurement of arms for the Nigerian military on 5th September 2014, assuring that the two governments were sorting out the issue.
“We will appreciate if we succeed in recovering all other things in
South Africa so that they will be returned,” Zuma said.
On the Xenophobia attacks in South Africa especially on against Nigerians, the visiting President said it was unfortunate because all Africans were the same, even though colonialists, through borders, had made them think that they were different.
“But we are the same Africans and that has been our view.
“In addressing the issue of Xenophobia, we want our people all over Africa to realise that we are the same and have the same interests,” he noted.
On upgrading economic trades between the two countries, Zuma said: “We have a commitment to increase our economic activities. We discussed across all areas of the economy to grow the economy faster. Part of the reason we agreed to elevate the Bi-national commission is to monitor on a yearly basis, how the economy is doing between the two countries.”