The Federal Government has ordered the Nigeria Communications Commission, NCC, to renegotiate the N789 billion fine it slammed on telecoms company, MTN, for not deactivating its subscribers not registered during the window opened for registration of SIM cards.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who received his counterpart from South Africa, Jacob Zuma, on Tuesday in Abuja, explained to his host why the heavy fine was placed on the company from his country in the first place.
Buhari lamented that failure of MTN to deregister unregistered subscribers on its network after the deadline aided Boko Haram attacks in some parts of the country.
The President said the decision of MTN to sue the FG made it difficult for him to interfere in the matter in the first place.
“The concern of the federal government was on the security of the country and not the fine imposed on MTN. You know how the unregistered GSM lines were used by terrorists and between 2009 and today, at least 10,000 Nigerians were killed by Boko Haram.
“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.
“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 steep fine to be reduced and maybe given time to pay gradually,” he said at a joint press conference in Abuja.
Also speaking at the press conference, Jacob Zuma said his country will return Nigeria’s confiscated arms purchase funds seized by his government.
“With regards to the things that were either confiscated or went to South Africa, 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,” Zuma said.
Speaking on the xenophobic attack on some Nigerians by South Africans, Zuma said, “It is 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.
“I am happy to be here with my delegation which comprises both Ministers and businessmen. We feel truly at home in Nigeria. The relationship between South Africa and Nigeria date back to the time Nigeria supported and contributed to the liberation of our country and people.
“Our brothers and sisters here were determined that they would not rest until South Africa was free. That history binds our two countries and informs our bilateral cooperation.
“It is in part due to this memorable and rich history that I accepted the invitation from my Dear Brother, President Buhari,” he said.