MTN Fine Saga: Not A Deterrent to Nigerian-South African Relationship


So much may have been said concerning the relationship between Nigeria and South Africa, that makes it look as if both countries are in divine cohesion.

Regardless of the diplomatic relationship which binds both countries together, the economic and sociocultural gains have a direct or indirect effect on Nigerians and South Africans.

Despite the Nigerian Communication Commission’s decision to fine South African telecoms company, MTN about N1.04 trillion over noncompliance to disconnect 5.1 million unregistered subscribers’ SIM cards from its network, this has not disrupted the good relationship between Nigeria and South Africa considering the fact that it’s only an avenue to correct the wrongs of the past.

The penalty was based on N200, 000 fine imposed for every unregistered SIM card in use on any telecom operator’s network.

However, the South African company had initially sought to take the Nigeria’s National Communications Commission (NCC ) to court before withdrawing its lawsuit against them, over a N780 billion fine, and paid N50 billion toward a possible settlement.

The Nigerian government had felt that the telephone operator’s failure to deactivate the defective SIMs from the networks before the stipulated date of January 31st, 2016 would aid the activities of kidnappers, insurgents; miscreants and other criminals, a notion which made some sense.

It is a fact that MTN has been known for controversies not only in Nigeria but also in Iran and Uganda. In Iran, Turkish Cell alleged that the company corruptly secured a mobile license in the Islamic republic, but MTN vehemently denied this allegation. In 2012, the telecommunications company was also accused by the Ugandan government of evading taxes.

Nigeria, South Africa strong ties

South African President Jacob Zuma’s made an historic visit to Abuja, in early March 2016. During the visit it was expected for President Muhammadu Buhari to hit harder on the MTN fine debacle. However the long historical, economic, and political history between the two helps to explain Buhari’s decision to call for re-negotiation of the N789 billion fine slammed on South African telecoms company, MTN, by NCC.

Firms in Africa’s most industrialized economy such as grocer Shop Rite and Standard Bank are among the biggest investors in Nigeria. The country accounted for nearly 80 percent of South Africa’s total trade in Africa in 2012. South Africa’s oil imports account for the bulk of trade.

This in-turn this has created job opportunities for Nigerian youth as well as increased the nation’s income through tax payments.

According to reports, since 1999, the number of major South African companies operating in Nigeria has risen to about 120, making the relationship more robust and having the potential for greater improvement. It is estimated that at least eighty bilateral agreements have been signed by both countries to boost trade, investment and diplomatic relations.

Nigeria, with a population of about 173 million people and gross domestic product of nearly 521 billion US dollars, offers South African businesses a huge market for their products and services.

It is equally remarkable that the South African government is offering its support to Nigeria in the war against terrorism. Already, Nigerian defense officials have signed an agreement with their South African counterparts for the deployment of that country’s Special Forces to assist in the war against terrorism.

During the apartheid era in South Africa, Nigeria was one of the foremost supporters of Black South African liberation movements, including the African National Congress; the Nigerian government issued more than 300 passports to South Africans seeking to travel abroad.

Again, South Africa is famous for its advancement in technology. In this regard, Nigeria stands to benefit from South Africa’s experience in mining, automobile assembling, metal works, machinery manufacturing; and the production of textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizers, foodstuffs and commercial ship repairs. It is worthy to note that South Africa is the world’s largest producer of platinum and chromium.

Additionally, as an emerging economy with requisite technological know-how, South Africa will, by all means, be a suitable partner with Nigeria in its quest for growth and national development. With the precarious economic situation of Nigeria arising from the fall in oil prices, the seeming renewal of economic-cum-diplomatic relations between Nigeria and South Africa will greatly impact positively on our country.

By and large, the relationship between these two strong nations would be difficult to separate going by past precedence and both governments will be looking forward to strengthening their bilateral relationship for the sake of growth and development of their beloved countries.