Nigerian president clarifies NCC's decision on MTN fine

Buhari says his govt was more interested in the security of ordinary citizens, rather than the MTN fine.

A vendor sells MTN airtime at an MTN office in Abuja, Nigeria. Picture: EPA/Tony Nwosu.

ABUJA - Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari has indicated that his government was more interested in the security of the lives of ordinary citizens, rather than the fine imposed on MTN for its failure to deactivate unregistered sim cards.

The issue cast a shadow over the build-up to the visit of President Jacob Zuma and was expected to have been high on the agenda when he met Buhari for talks in the capital, Abuja.

Buhari spoke at a joint press conference at the state house yesterday with Zuma.

President Zuma two day visit started off at the presidential villa in Abuja where he was warmly received by his Buhari.

He was given a 21-gun salute and inspected a guard of honour before heading inside for talks.

Nigeria has asked South Africa for closer defence ties, including Special Forces training in operations against Boko Haram.

Observers see Zuma's arrival as an attempt to mend fences between Africa's largest economic powers.

After spending two hours together, both countries were able to commit themselves to better economic cooperation.

"In order to implement the intra-trade in the continent, these two countries should give leadership and indeed that's a commitment we've made."

It was obvious the press conference will not be complete withou t seeking clarification from Buhari on the $3.9 billion fine imposed on MTN.

"You know how the unregistered sim cards are being used by terrorists, that was why the NCC asked MTN, Glow and rest of them to register sim cards."

Reactions to this revelation by Buhari will certainly dominate discussions in Nigeria in days to come.


Buhari accused MTN of " fuelling Boko Haram insurgency" in northeast Nigeria by failing to disconnect millions of unregistered users.

According to Agence France-Press, all mobile phone operators in Nigeria were ordered to disconnect unregistered SIMs by mid-2015 on security grounds but MTN missed the deadline.

Last year, the country's communications regulator slapped MTN with a $5,2 billion fine, which was reduced to $3.9 billion.

It has since paid out $250 million towards the penalty.

MTN's troubles in Nigeria has seen its profits fall by over 50 percent.

Buhari said, "The concern of the federal government was basically on the security, not the fine imposed on the MTN. You know how the unregistered GSM are being used by terrorists... That was why (the) NCC (Nigerian Communications Commission) asked the MTN, Glo and the rest of them to register GSM."

Buhari added that MTN was very slow and contributed to the casualties.

Boko Haram violence has left 17,000 dead and forced more than 2.6 million from their homes since 2009. Buhari announced in December the group was "technically" defeated but attacks continue.