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S. Africa Wants Better Bilateral Ties with Nigeria

  • James Butty

South Africa's President, Jacob Zuma, left, is welcomed by Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari during an official visit at the Presidential Palace in Abuja, Nigeria, Tuesday, March 8, 2016.

South Africa's President, Jacob Zuma, left, is welcomed by Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari during an official visit at the Presidential Palace in Abuja, Nigeria, Tuesday, March 8, 2016.

South African President Jacob Zuma continues his three-day state visit to Nigeria Wednesday intended to strengthen the relationship between Africa's two leading economies.

Garba Shehu, special assistant on media and publicity to President Buhari says President Zuma's visit is valuable because the two nations have a great deal to learn from each other, especially at a time when Nigeria is trying to diversify its economy from a dependence on oil to agriculture and mining, two areas he said in which South Africa has achieved a lot of progress.

He also said the two leaders are discussing security cooperation, including arms manufacturing.

Talks between the two leaders come amid some controversy on another security issue. Buhari accused the South African mobile phone company MTN Tuesday of fueling the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria by its failure to disconnect unregistered users.

Shehu said while Buhari did not directly accuse MTN of aiding Boko Haram, the company was negligent even after repeated warnings from the Nigerian government to disconnect unregistered SIM cards by the middle of last year.

"What he said is that they were slow in carrying out the registration of their own subscribers, and by default that of course led to the usage of telecom's platform by just anyone, including terrorists. And he said the implication of that is that the action of the company may have aided the killing by Boko Haram of more 10,000 Nigerians," Shehu said.

Nigeria's grapple with MTN appears to be a familiar one in an age of advancing technology and the desire for individual privacy and national security. U.S Federal investigators are suing technology giant Apple, the maker of the iPhone, to force the company to provide access to the iPhone device used by one of the shooters in the December attack that killed 14 people and wounded 22 others in San Bernardino, California.

Shehu said Nigeria's dispute with MTN is different.

"In the case of the Nigerian incident, it is very clearly stated that each must profile and register all of their subscribers, and the law clearly states that if you fail to register within a given deadline, you must be charged so much money for each individual that you did not register. So it's a law and order situation. The MTN was negligent in this exercise, even after repeated warnings and deadline extensions, they simply ignored the government regulation," he said.

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