The five-day ultimatum given to the Nigerian Communications Commission to fix illegal telecommunications operators ‘ deductions and rising data rates is a welcome but late development. The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, has quite rightly gone to the telecommunications operators after obtaining a bitter reality. It is clear that the operators of our General Mobile System (GSM) have pushed their luck and greed too far to bear the wrath of a responsible regulator.

Since the dawn of the 21st century and the later Internet and digitization innovations that have been driven by digitization, access to data has become synonymous with life worldwide. Every modern information technology focuses on data. In the disruptive order, Nigeria is no exception. The most populous Black nation in the world with the most dynamic young people quickly and freely attach themselves to the digital world and its opportunities. By 2019, Nigeria became Russia and Germany’s seventh-highest internet subscriber.

Findings have shown that in the country alone, there are over 110 million monthly subscribers. In the meantime, about 81 percent of Internet traffic comes to benefit nearly six million Twitter accounts and 5.7 million Instagram users in the country from mobile devices. Recent visits to Nigeria by Facebook and Twitter CEOs also highlighted the importance of Nigeria for the global digital economy. Moreover, even the name of the ministry responsible for this critical sector had to be changed recently to reflect the globalization. Now it is the Communications Ministry and Digital Economy.

But what did the consumers get in return? Something in the epileptic supply neighborhood and the operators ‘ rip-off. That technology obviously has its own teething stages. Oddly enough, telecommunications networks in Nigeria have held a raging role in comparison to advanced models in neighboring African countries. On an industry average of five to ten megabytes per scnd, Internet access is even worse in many area in the country, with abysmally snail-pace results that are brighter than the date of expiration. In the meantime, the country is based on submarine cables with 32.8 terabits / second data capacity.

Mobile 1 GB N2000 subscription a month easily cost 11% of N18, 000 minimum wage or 6.6% of the proposed N30, 000 benchmarks. With data that last just a few days, some customers charge as much as N5, 000. In any case, the price overrides the idea of accessible information, according to the Alliance for Accessible Internet (A4AI), which should cost just two percent of the monthly income. It is thus twice the risk of paying for services that are not up to scratch, combined with hidden reckless charges that have become the operators ‘ hobby.

In the midst of the daylight robbery, Pantami took the gauntlet and, for once, shared the long-suffering customers ‘ feelings. “The Nigerians ‘ grievances go beyond what I can handle today. People complain about it, and it happened to me. You load the data but only use 20 percent of them, and the whole data is deleted, “said the Minister, who gave the NCC Board five working days to review the recurring offenses.

He also rightly referred to the infrastructural challenges faced by operators, such as vandalism and the right of way (RoW). Nevertheless, there are problems with multiple charges of more than 40, which are imposed on operators. Others include intermittent power supplies, blackouts, brownouts, and high fuel costs for maintaining base stations. All these speed bumps are reported by the operators and should not be overlooked. However, the working environment does not justify poor services and excessive consumer effects.

As a rule, anything that is used can also be abused. In this context, the Act of Assembly creating the NCC clearly laid down regulatory obligations. The regulator’s organic role is to protect customers and control the business interests of productive investors. At least three of the Act’s parts deal with consumer protection and service quality. Section 104, for instance, requires all service providers to (a) meet such minimum quality requirements as may be defined and published by the Commission from time to time; (b) deal fairly with customers and (c) resolve consumer complaints adequately. Section 105 (1) directs that “the Commission may use any of its powers under this Act in dealing with consumer complaints on matters relating to customer service and consumer protection, including but not limited to service quality and non-compliance by the licensee to the consumer code prepared pursuant to this Chapter.” The customer is therefore secured in theory, but not in fact.

It is indeed surprising and odd that the NCC has a marching declaration to meet its obligations to the Nigerian Government. It feels a lack of obligation for many years, including ministers and senators, to be anxious about the quality of service. The NCC should be clearly stated that the people in this customer-centered company have failed.   

Undoubtedly, the NCC Board has a regulator’s mandate and must stop acting as an industry operator. How long will the NCC keep pushing for higher charges for bad services? How much longer will NCC officials continue to be lawyers for operators to justify decrepit facilities and not to alleviate customer pain? NCC is significant in its picture and perception. Nobody lacks the moral issue of his former Executive Vice President and CEO cross-carpeting into operators ‘ folds. The operators, including the one that he currently heads as chairman, are authorized under his watch at NCC. Such a dramatic, uneducated turnaround will only gain more suspicion from the NCC than from the public trust. 

The Commission apparently needs to reorganize its conduct, be more transparent, and once and for all serve consumers ‘ expectations for quality data services at a reasonable cost. Wherever possible, the value of the public demand for money. Telecommunications companies should not take Nigerians for granted. It also allows the authorities to promote start-ups for Internet service providers (ISPs, for instance) because they make unlimited access to Internet infrastructure in homes and at affordable rates more effective than phones.

It is well known that people-oriented reforms are not taking place in Nigeria overnight. But this is a matter of national urgency. It’s about the better of all. The new Minister, who should be commended for his energy and constructive efforts, has given an order not disrespecting the public interest of the NCC Board and telecoms operators.

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