from OKORO CHINEDU in Lagos, Nigeria
LAGOS, (CAJ News) – WITH its problems in Nigeria, Multichoice joins a growing list of South African companies falling foul of authorities in the West African country amid the latter’s crackdown apparently to boost revenues following the waning oil sector.
While foreign companies are targets of these policies by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, South Africans’ are believed to be bearing the brunt of the diplomatic fallout between the two countries that are the biggest economies and political heavyweights in the continent.
The clampdown by political authorities have filtered through to the man on the street, with South African firms targeted in reprisal attacks each time foreign nationals are targeted during anti-migrant violence in Nigeria.
Nigeria’s revenue service- Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) – has told local banks to freeze the accounts of pay-TV group MultiChoice to recover N1,8 trillion (about US$4,38 billion) it says the South African company owes in taxes and relating to imports and other payments.
Mutichoice, which has about two million subscribers in Nigeria, has disputed the allegations.
“The matter is apparently based on unfounded allegations that MultiChoice Nigeria has not fully disclosed all existing subscribers to authorities,” it stated.
MultiChoice retains hope the issue with FIRS will be “amicably” resolved.
“Our operations are continuing in Nigeria,” the company stated.
Multichoice’s travails follow another dispute in 2015 involving South African mobile operator MTN Group, which was handed down a $5.2 billion fine by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
This followed the failure to meet a deadline for operators to disconnect the Subscribers Identification Modules (SIM) with improper registration.
The fine was later reduced to $1,7 billion and MTN later listed on the Lagos Stock Exchange as a commitment to Africa’s largest economy.
Nigeria is MTN’s biggest market where it has over 76,5 million subscribers.
While Multichoice and MTN have stayed put, leisure group, Sun International plans to sell its investment following a shareholder dispute in Tourist Company of Nigeria (TCN).
The firm, with a 49 per cent stake in TCN, operators of the Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos, had been subjected to probe by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over issues surrounding its initial investment in 2006.
Together with such another giant firm, Shoprite, Multichoice and MTN have previously fallen victim to revenge attacks in Nigeria during xenophobic violence in South Africa.
These peaked in 2019.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest producer of crude oil, is under pressure to boost tax revenues following the volatility in the oil sector globally.
Relations with South Africa are tetchy.
Osayaba Giwa-Osagie, Chairman, Nigeria South Africa Chamber of Commerce (NSACC) said although it is commendable that the governments of both countries had risen up to curb these situations from escalating, the fears still exist between investors.
“The insecurity rate in both nations is another constant threat to trade between both countries,” he said.
– CAJ News