President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said the slow registration of Nigerians on the MTN line by the service provider was costly to the war against Boko Haram terrorists.
He spoke at a news conference after holding a closed meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The President said the concern of the Federal Government was security and not the fine imposed on MTN.
Answering questions yesterday, he said: “This is the first time I will be making a public comment about it. The concern of the Federal Government is on security and not the fine imposed on MTN.
“You know how the unregistered GSM is being used by terrorists. And 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 slow and contributed to the casualties.”
Buhari went on: “And NCC looked at its regulations and imposed the fine. Unfortunately for MTN, it 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 will be going against its constitution.
“I think MTN has seen that and decided to withdraw the case and negotiate with government agencies on what it considers a steep fine to be reduced and maybe given time to pay gradually, ” the President said.
On boosting trade between the two countries, Buhari noted that before coming into office, the All Progressives Congress (APC) articulated three areas; security, economy and corruption.
He said: “And we identified the role we can improve on our relationship with South Africa. On the economy, we identified agriculture and solid minerals so that we get everybody employed.
“South Africa is far ahead of us in agriculture and solid minerals. So, in diversifying the economy I think there is a great room for improvement.”
Before the question-and-answer session, Buhari noted that Nigeria was fighting terrorism and at the same time faced with economic challenges.
According to him, the two countries decided to make all agreements signed in 1999 and 2013 a reality while the officials meet at least once a year over the agreements.
With more than a billion people on the African continent, Buhari said Africa deserves a place in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Fielding questions from reporters on the illegal arms deal involving Nigeria, Zuma said everything seized would be returned to Nigeria when investigation is concluded.
He said: “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, but there are some that have been discovered and recovered and there are investigating.
“We will appreciate if we succeed in recovering all other issues or all other things that will be in South Africa illegally so that they will be returned.”
On Xenophobia, he said: “We are the same and that has been our view in addressing Xenophobia. We would want our people to realise that we are the same and have the same interests.”
Regarding things that could have been lost during the period, he said the relevant departments were handling them.
Noting that the two countries have signed over 30 bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding, Zuma said the two countries were committed to increasing economic activities.
He said: “We discussed across all areas of the economy. Part of the reason we agreed to elevate the Binational Commission is to monitor on a yearly basis how the economy is doing.
“The relations between South Africa and Nigeria date back to the time when Nigeria supported and contributed to the liberation of our country and people,” he said.
Noting that Nigeria is South Africa’s key trading partner on the continent, Zuma said there were only four South African companies in Nigeria prior to 1999. Since 1999, he said the situation changed dramatically.
He said: “Over 120 companies are doing business in Nigeria, mainly in telecommunications, banking, retail, property, entertainment and hospitality.
“We also see great potential in boosting tourism between the two countries. According to Statistics South Africa, an average of 4,000 Nigerians travelled to South Africa on a monthly basis in 2015.”
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