$5.2bn fine: MTN's inaction aided Boko Haram, says Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday lamented how South African telecommunications firm, MTN, aided the murderous terrorist activities of Boko Haram by its slow response to Nigeria's directives to register all its network users in the country.

He spoke at the Aso Rock Villa "during a joint press conference with South African president, Jacob Zuma, who is visiting with a large contingent of
businessmen to expand trade relations with Nigeria.
"Answering a South African journalist's question on the extent of negotiations regarding the $5.2 billion fine imposed by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) on MTN, Buhari said Nigeria was actually more concerned about the security implications than the fine.

His words: "This is the first time I will personally as president be making a public comment about it; the concern of the federal government is basically on the security and not the fine imposed on MTN.

"You know how the unregistered GSM (cards) are 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 (cards). Unfortunately, MTN was very, very slow and contributed to the casualties"; and NCC looked at its regulations and imposed the fine"."
"He said despite MTN's initial decision to drag the federal government to court over the fine and later withdrew the case, negotiations would continue until the matter is resolved.
According to him; "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 is going against its own Constitution. Therefore the government has 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 and maybe given time to pay gradually".""
Nonetheless, Buhari harped on the need for both countries to continue their long-standing relationship as their affinity and leadership of the continent remained undisputed.

""He said Nigeria would exploit South Africa's advantage in the agriculture and solid minerals sectors as both countries continue to expand mutual trade relations.

The president "appealed to the conscience of the international community to realise that Africa deserves a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.
"In his remarks, Zuma disclosed that the bilateral talks with Buhari covered areas of mutual cooperation like trade, transport, defence/security, immigration, energy , etc; for which over 30 agreements and memoranda of understanding had been signed and relevant ministers from the two countries directed to implement them.

He said the Nigeria/South Africa Bi-National Commission formed since 1991 "has now been upgraded to level of heads of state so that leaders of both countries can personally lead the drive for mutual trade expansion.

Zuma noted that South African businesses in Nigeria had grown from four in 1991 to 120 today while on average, 4,000 Nigerians visited South Africa every month in 2015.

"He urged the private sector to invest in both countries as the two leaders had committed to ease the manner of doing business and create conducive atmosphere for investors.
Asked why South African was still keeping some funds and assets it seized from Nigeria in an arms purchase attempt by the last administration, Zuma said "the two governments are working on those matters, the relevant structures are working on it; but there are some that the necessary departments are doing the investigations.

"We will appreciate if we succeed in recovering all other things in South Africa so that they will be returned."

On xenophobic attacks by some South Africans, which hampers foreigners businesses in their country, and if there was any hope of compensation to victims, the South African leader said it was unfortunate because all Africans are the same despite colonial borders that have made them think that they are different.

"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.

"As" regards things that could have been lost during the period, relevant departments are handling them."

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