The Minister of Communications Technology, Barrister Adebayo Shittu at the weekend asserted that his Ministry and the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) should collaborate to save Nigerians from increasing consumer abuses in the telecom sector.
The Minister made the assertion at the weekend when the Director General of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Mrs. Dupe Atoki led her Management team to pay a courtesy call on him in his office in Abuja.
Mrs. Atoki paid the courtesy call to intimate the Minister on the relevance of the ministry in activities lined up for the commemoration of the 2017 World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD), whose theme is ‘Building A Digital Age Consumers can Trust’, stressing the need to step up protection for consumers in the telecom sector.
Enumerating the challenges consumers in the digital age in Nigeria face, the CPC boss contended that everything has been digitalized “except for our breathing, because at the touch of a button, something just happens, so we cannot afford being engulfed in the digital system,” pointing out that “we are looking at acknowledging the benefits of the digital world, examining the challenges that this innovation had brought, we are to look at all the peculiarities and take up those issues and try to resolve them.
“For us in Nigeria, we know that there are concerns on online redress, because you can do so many things online, you can purchase a product online, but when there is a fault, you cannot do the same online. You cannot get a redress online. If you bought a product that is dissatisfactory, the businesses have not created a portal that eases consumer redress. We also have online security, where you have fraud, and this is where the 419s and the yahoo yahoo people as you call them, thrive on the digital system. And so we have so much fraud going on using the various platforms for digital process” she stated.
The director general added: “We also have the privacy protection issues here, one of which is unsolicited messages that we receive. These are as a result of the digital platforms for which these processes are being put to us, and so it’s either messages or sometimes you are forced to get a caller tune that you are not even aware of, so your privacy is being invaded via these various platforms. Issues that sit with the telecoms operators, issues of broadband that consumers don’t know. You buy a bundle for voice or broadband and you don’t know what is allocated to you. There are a lot of challenges that we face as a result of this new digital age”.
Responding, the Minister stressed the need for more synergy between his ministry and the Council because Information Communication Technology, particularly telecoms, has the greatest impact on the Nigerian consumer community.
According to him, “telecoms and ICT are the biggest influence on human lives, on businesses and even on government, I think that ICT, particularly telecoms is one area where we can possibly affect Nigerians perhaps more than any other”, noting that “as at today we have 150 million Nigerians who use telephones and that shows the only area with the largest users.
“If you talk of food, it is possible that some people may not get food or may not eat and sleep that day but telecoms has become the single link that Nigerians have among themselves and with outside world. So I believe that in today’s world, it is the area where you have the largest dose of cheating and fraud. So if we are able to succeed in protecting the rights of telecom consumers, there will be a lot of satisfaction because as minister of communications, I receive bashing in this area” he stated.
Recounting a personal recent experience, Shittu disclosed that “only last few days this week, I bought two N500 credit cards. I loaded the first N500 and got N500 alert. I loaded he second N500 and it said your main balance is N800. I had to call one of the directors of the company, who said I should give him 10 minutes.
“By the 10 minutes, they returned my N200 and I was wondering if the Minister of Communications can go through this experience how much less other Nigerians who are in millions. It is a very serious problem; we have been on it for quite some times. In fact, I had cause to invite all telecoms stakeholders and virtually read the riot act but unfortunately, no progress has been made. Only two days ago at an MTN forum, I expressed my dissatisfaction” the Minister lamented.
In a note of optimism, Shittu stated: “It is a relief to me that CPC is coming in to assist us. Actually, it is our job that you are coming to do because if you succeed in this respect, people will assume that we have improved and that will be very good. Whatever encouragement and support we must give, we will certainly give them and honestly, I’m so excited”.