MTN Nigeria says its relationship with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) was strictly commercial and the centre purchased its services like every other business organisation prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
Responding to Chikwe Ihekweazu, the CEO of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, who said on Friday that telecommunication companies in Nigeria did not support the centre until the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus, MTN said it has only become necessary to strongly support the centre now, as these are trying times for the nation.
“MTN is currently engaging with the NCDC and providing support as needed. As stated by the CEO of NCDC, we have come out strongly in supporting the Centre and we will continue to do so. Prior to now, our relationship with the Centre was commercial. By that I mean that they purchase services from us like any other organization. However, these are trying times. These are times of great need for our country. We are therefore leveraging our core strength to support the Centre,” the company said.
In response to questions from BusinessDay asking exactly what the telco is doing to help, Tobechukwu Okigbo, Chief Corporate Services Officer, MTN Nigeria said;
“We have provided 1,200 telephone lines, which we have credited with N100,000 monthly for voice and sms. We are also providing 3GB of data a month to those lines. We’ll provide airtime and data to those lines for 6 months in the first instance. We will continue to provide airtime and data to those lines after that period as required. We are offering toll-free lines, some free phones and are partnering with the Centre to send out information to our subscribers.”
Okigbo told BusinessDay that MTN is currently in conversation with other like-minded organisations, including other telcos to come together and do more.
“Coalitions are being formed, partnerships are being built to combat this scourge, and we are taking advantage of every opportunity to contribute. Different private sector work streams have been set up and MTN is active in a lot of them. I represent MTN in some of them, while my colleagues play critical roles in others. The fact is that this war is not going to be won except we cooperate and pool resources together. I have the authority of the Chairman of the Board of MTN, the Chairman of the Board of MTN Foundation and the Executive Committee (Excom) of the organization to identify these opportunities for collaboration and come back for guidance on how to proceed. To this end, Excom meets everyday to review actions being taken and to ensure we are deploying resources in a way that assures the most impact,” Okigbo said.
Last week, Airtel Nigeria commenced a national awareness campaign on Coronavirus to curb the spread of the deadly disease.
It also zero-rated visits to the websites of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) just as it changed its network ID on customers’ handset to read, ‘Be Safe.’
Airtel donated 40 mobile phones complete with a Closed User Group (CUG) to the Port Health Services, an arm of the Federal Ministry of Health, to support its effort to track and verify passenger information at the country’s local and international airports.
Segun Ogunsanya, managing director and chief executive officer of Airtel Nigeria, while speaking on the donation, said the company, like every other organization is committed to any measure that will help curb the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.
“The phones, airtime and CUG are probably the least we can do in the circumstance to empower the gallant men and women at the forefront of the fight against the scourge,” he said.
Ihekweazu who confirmed that the agency has now secured help from MTN and Airtel, said that these have come right in the middle of the war to combat the pandemic, thereby hampering the organisation’s ability to respond to the crises.
“We approached the TelCos for many years for assistance but none of them came to our aid,” Ihekweazu said while answering questions about why the organisation’s helplines were unable to provide support previously.
Okigbo told BusinessDay that MTN is doing its bit, and that in collaboration with others in the private sector will do even more.
“In the coming days, this will become even more manifest. I dare say that the NCDC is pleased with our contribution. We are in touch with them and are in constant conversation on other areas of intervention,” he said.