The recent relationship between MTN, Africa’s largest mobile operator and the Nigerian government has been been checkered to put it lightly. In the last few months, the mobile operator has been in and out of courtrooms with Nigerian authorities as it continues to seek a way out of a landmark $3.9 billion fine in its biggest market. Even though the company recently made a $250 million “good faith” payment, which it hopes will facilitate a smoother out-of-court settlement, it has, again, come under fire, this time by Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president.
Speaking at a joint press conference to welcome Jacob Zuma, his South African counterpart, Buhari said the South African telco MTN was complicit in the country’s fight against the deadly Boko Haram sect by not dealing decisively with unregistered sim cards which were thought to have been utilized by terrorists.
“The concern of the federal government is basically on the security ” Buhari said during the joint press conference. “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. Unfortunately, MTN was very, very slow and contributed to the casualties”.
The president did not provide evidence to back up his claims of MTN’s direct culpability, though it has been hinted for sometime by government insiders. MTN, which is already in a difficult position with the Nigerian government did not immediately respond to the Buhari’s comment.
While the subject of MTN’s fine was always going to come up during Zuma’s state visit, it is also expected that the visit will be aiming at growing trade between Africa’s two biggest economies despite recent strained diplomatic relations