If We Don’t Buy Nigeria,  We Will Die in Nigeria Henry Omoregie

Like many other Nigerians, I read Joseph Edgar’s musings attacking Glo and hyping MTN. I was at a loss for words. It used to be that only music stars had hype men. Never knew that telcos had followed suit. But to each his own. 

As someone who has built a reputation for promoting the brand Nigeria, let me thank President Bola Tinubu and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for putting Nigeria first and intervening in MTN’s plot against Glo. Obviously, they want to try here what they have done in Ghana. 

In Edgar, we see that many Nigerians will do anything for money. Sad. 

Let me take on Edgar issue by issue. First, he claimed that since MTN has Nigerian shareholders, it should be seen as a Nigerian company and that we need foreign direct investments. Yes, he is right to an extent. 

We need foreign direct investments, not foreign exploitative investments. MTN is an exploiter that has officially been branded an exploitative monopoly in neighbouring Ghana. MTN even went to court in Ghana over a tax dispute and lost. 

Not done, Ghana fined MTN $773 million as back-tax bill, penalties and interest charges, with Kevin Ekow Taylor, one of the most prominent journalists in Ghana, saying, “successive Ghanaian governments have given too much room to MTN to cheat the Ghanaian.”

Now, they are doing the same thing in Nigeria. Exploitatively using interconnectivity rates to squeeze out their competitors and grow their market share. 

Additionally, MTN is not a Nigerian company because the owners of the 30% Nigerian shareholding are nominal shareholders with no real power to determine the direction of that firm. The fact remains that MTN is a majority-owned South African company that repatriates its profits to South Africa, thereby putting downward pressure on the Nigerian Naira. Daily, Nigeria loses millions of dollars to South Africa, for a service we can provide ourselves. 

 Edgar, a man with a foreign name, and who is supporting a foreign company, tried to justify MTN by saying that their foundation has spent billions of naira in Nigeria and employs Nigerians. Well, if that is his argument, then why did Nigeria get rid of the colonial masters? They also invested a bit of the money they exploited from Nigeria locally, and they employed and educated more people than MTN. Yet, we still sent them packing. Maybe Edgar would like us to invite them back to recolonise us. 

Next, he tried to fudge the truth by alleging that Glo owes MTN. Bunkum. That was an unproven allegation that has since been debunked by the reconciliation of accounts between both parties.

Glo does not owe MTN. MTN was only engaging in the same old exploitative practices that had branded them an exploitative monopoly in Ghana. 

MTN came up with the alleged debt claim, stating, among other things, that they paid Value Added Tax on behalf of Glo. I mean, that is just an insult to the intelligence of the NCC. Who authorised MTN to pay taxes on behalf of other corporate entities? What is the business of MTN with Glo’s taxes, which, by the way, investigations revealed that Glo had paid? 

And then they claimed compounded interest since 2009 and that the compounded interests ballooned to over ₦7 billion. Who does that in corporate Nigeria? By virtue of the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act, what MTN admitted to doing is a banking and financial service, which is illegal for a non-banking institution to do. The Central Bank of Nigeria, the Ministry of Finance and the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Institutions should look into alleged possible violation of applicable Nigerian laws by MTN. In these lean financial times, Nigeria may have to slam another $1.671 billion fine for this violation. 

Edgar should seek proper information for MTN before doing their work. MTN first alleged that Glo owed them ₦7.05 billion. Thank God, we now have a businessman President, a first-class accountant, who promotes transparency and supports an audit. It was discovered upon reconciliation that only less than two billion naira of that amount was even their alleged interconnectivity charges, which Glo was said to have paid and tendered the receipts.

And finally, the VAT tax, which they claimed they paid on behalf of Glo. Interestingly enough, upon investigation, it was found that Glo had paid its VAT tax as and when due. 

The long and short of it is that it was proved to the regulators beyond the shadow of a doubt that Glo was not in any way indebted to MTN. 

And to show that this was not about money, Glo insisted on a reconciliatory audit, which the Presidency promptly approved, and deposited bank guarantees of ₦3.489 billion, as well as seven bank drafts to the tune of ₦3.5 billion, as acts of good faith during the pendency of the reconciliatory audit. 

How can you claim compounded interest from 2009 and only want to collect it in December of 2023, fourteen years after the alleged debt? You can see quite clearly what they are doing. Attempting to use underhand tactics to edge out Glo’s market share; no other telco charges any such interest in the industry.

MTN is still stinging from the initial $1.671 billion (amounting to N330 billion as at then) fine imposed on them by the Buhari’s administration for non-deactivation of 5.2 million non-registered SIM cards.

A company that allegedly undermined Nigeria’s national security by not disconnecting non-registered SIMs now threatens to disconnect Glo. Just imagine that.  You cannot disconnect unregistered phone lines to curb insecurity but you want to disconnect the phone lines registered to your biggest competitor. 

They feel Glo is the only thing standing in their way. 

Only that in the case of Nigeria, some patriots are standing up to them.

And to think that Edgar was raining insults on one of these patriots who lamented that MTN’s monopoly is not good for the Nigerian economy.  Edgar aspired to lead his secondary school’s alumni association but withdrew after opinion polls revealed his unpopularity. If people who went to school and know you best rejected you, then the public should find out why. 

The fact remains that colonialism was only possible because foreigners used locals to sell their people and country for kickbacks like mirrors and alcoholic drinks. Centuries later, little has changed. We still have many Edgars, who will offer themselves as willing tools to undermine their nation. Maybe South Africa, too, should have accepted Apartheid. After all, those behind Apartheid invested in building townships like Soweto and employed turncoats.

The fact remains that unless we buy locally made goods and services, the naira will not rise in value since it has been floated. The value of our currency is now in the hands of the laws of demand and supply. This is elementary economics that cannot be twisted, no matter how much minions try to twist things. 

We must look after our own because if push comes to shove, exploitative investors, like MTN, can and will go, but Glo, Dangote and Innoson will sink or swim with Nigeria. 

If Nigerians make calls with Glo, drive to work with Innoson, and eat Dangote staples, the Naira will rise faster. What is even Nigerian about Edgar? A man so ashamed of his roots that he has a foreign name. Inferiority complex does terrible things to people!

Let me end by counselling Globacom to seek legal redress against MTN in court for alleged extensive brand damage. Do to them in Nigeria what was done to them in the Ghanaian courts. 

• Omoregie, a scholar and author, writes from Benin.

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