Nigerian President Blames Phone Company for Boko Haram Attacks
Nigeria asked phone giant MTN to shut down unregistered SIM cards. They failed to respond in time.
For more than six years, Boko Haram extremists have wreaked havoc on northeastern Nigeria. In that time, Nigeria’s military has failed to effectively defeat the group, which regularly launches suicide attacks across the Lake Chad region.
But on Tuesday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari put some of the blame for Boko Haram’s rise on an unlikely perpetrator: South African mobile phone giant MTN, which has more than 62 million subscribers in Nigeria.
“You know how the unregistered [SIM cards] are being used by terrorists, and between 2009 and today at least 10,000 Nigerians were killed by Boko Haram,” Buhari said Tuesday at a joint news conference with South African President Jacob Zuma, who is visiting Abuja this week.
According to the Nigerian government, Boko Haram militants plan and launch attacks using unregistered SIM cards that make it hard for officials to track their movements. The Nigerian government repeatedly asked MTN to disconnect unregistered SIM cards to slow the militant group, but the phone company failed to comply with an earlier deadline. Last year, MTN CEO Sifiso Dabengwa resigned shortly before the company paid the Nigerian government an initial $250 million fine for failing to pay on time. Nigeria wanted a total of $3.9 billion.
On Tuesday, Buhari, who was sworn in as president last May, claimed that MTN’s delay contributed directly to Boko Haram’s success in killing innocent civilians. “Unfortunately, MTN was very, very slow and contributed to the casualties,” he said at the news conference.
Photo Credit: PHILIP OJISUA/AFP/Getty Images
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