President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday spoke publicly for the first time on the $5.2bn fine imposed on MTN Group by the Nigerian Communications Commission, saying the concern of his government is not about the penalty but on the security implication of the telecommunication firm’s inaction. The firm was sanctioned by the regulatory agency for failing to register some SIM cards.
Buhari spoke while answering a question during a joint press conference he addressed alongside visiting South African President, Jacob Zuma, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. The President explained that because members of the Boko Haram sect were using unregistered SIM cards, MTN contributed to the casualties recorded by the sect because of its inaction. 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 (SIM cards) 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.”
He said that was why his government left the NCC and security agencies to handle the matter in their
own way. Buhari added that unfortunately for the telecommunication firm, rather than negotiating the fine or the mode of payment, it dragged the Federal Government to court. He said the country’s constitution stipulates that no further action should be taken on any issue that is a subject of litigation. Buhari said now that MTN had decided to withdraw the case from court, it is free to go back to the
relevant government agencies to see if the fine can be reduced and paid in instalments.