Nigerian students demand MTN, MultiChoice leave the country

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Pay-TV group MultiChoice and pan-African mobile operator MTN are among the big companies that have been ordered out of Nigeria within a week by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), in retaliation to alleged xenophobic attacks meted on the West Africans residing in SA.

This as the South African Police Services has, in recent weeks, intensified raids of undocumented foreign nationals, as well as the fight on drugs in and around Johannesburg. This has been misconstrued in some quarters as specific attacks aimed at Nigerians.

On Thursday, in Yola, Adamawa State, Nigerian students picketed at South African businesses, warning them to leave the country in seven days.

NANS threatened to shut down South African business interests in Nigeria by the end of the ultimatum if xenophobic attacks against Nigerians continue.

The students, holding placards with different inscriptions, blocked access to a Standard Bank branch for several hours.

Nigeria is home to about 120 South African companies, including MTN, Shoprite, MultiChoice, South African Airways and Game.

With more than 65 million users, Nigeria is MTN's biggest market in Africa, according to the Nigerian Communications Commission.

It also accounts for a third of the company's annual profit. Africa's leading telecoms group recently listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, being valued at about two trillion naira ($5.6 billion), making MTN Nigeria the second-biggest company on the bourse, after Dangote Cement, and pushing Nestlé Nigeria into third place.

The MTN Group owns almost 79% of the Nigerian business.

MultiChoice has a joint venture partnership with Nigerian businessman and senior advocate of Nigeria, Adewunmi Ogunsanya, and 70% of Nigerians watch the pay-TV service.

Spokesperson of NANS, Azeez Adeyemi, said: “We have the capacity to run our economy; we don't need any foreign company for Nigeria to thrive. We, the students of Nigeria, would not sit back to watch the killings continue, because our parents contributed their resources to fight apartheid in South Africa.”

In Pretoria yesterday, international relations and cooperation minister Naledi Pandor expressed concern about statements coming from Nigeria, calling for the expulsion of South Africans and protests at South African-owned businesses.

"The protests are said to be in response to alleged killings of Nigerians by South Africans. As you are aware, these allegations are devoid of truth, reckless and unwarranted," Pandor told journalists at a briefing in Pretoria.

"We have also had contact from the highest level of the Nigerian government; we have been assured that authorities in Nigeria are taking these calls for protests seriously. They have also assured us that South African citizens and their property in Nigeria will be protected," Pandor said.

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