By Bakare Idris
Since the revolution of GSM hit the market in 2001, Businesses, relationships, academic world, security agencies, entertainment industry, health sector, banking industry and so on, have benefited immensely from the telecom services, both directly and indirectly
Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have made billions of dollars from Nigerian subscribers, at the same time created thousands of jobs for, hitherto, unemployed Nigerians. There have been several arguments as to whether the telecommunications services being rendered by the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to subscribers are commensurate to telephone bills being paid by the consumers.
There have been cries from Nigerian subscribers on how they are being short-changed and exploited by the Network Operators via poor Quality of Service (QoS), which falls short of age-longed business principle of reciprocity. It is worthy to note that in 2015, Nigerian telecom consumers spent a whopping sum of $5.6 billion on telecommunications services.
And in 2016, they topped it up by another $1billion, to make it $6.6 billion. If after spending this huge amount and they are not getting the best of services, initially there is something wrong with the system, and needed urgent attention and should be rectify.
Nigerian consumers have been at the receiving end of the excesses and ineptness of Mobile Network Operators for over a decade. It is ignoble and unjust for telecom subscribers to continue paying for telecommunications services they are not using, or under using. Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had in the past introduced some measures to checkmate poor Quality of Service in the sector, but it seemed that Network Operators found ways to evade these Quality of Service checkpoints.
The NCC had fined cum penalised defaulting Mobile Network Operators in the past, for performing below Quality of Service (QoS) benchmark set for them. The Quality of Service yardstick is being reviewed periodically by the Commission to reflect happenings in the industry
The Nigerian Communications Commission’s recent declaration of 2017 as the year of telecom consumer came as breath of fresh air, to Nigerian subscriber, who has endured lot of difficulties, orchestrated by poor quality of telecommunications services in the sector.
The NCC officially flagged off Nigerian Telecom Consumer year on 15th of March, 2017. Coincidentally, March 15th, 2017, happened to be United Nations World Consumer Day (WCRD). The Theme for the day was: “Building a Digital World Consumers can Trust”. It is very strategic for the NCC to flag off Nigerian Telecom Consumer project on a day the world celebrated, not only consumers, but digitisation—which falls within the purview of the NCC’s mandate of regulating telecommunications industry.
Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, during the flag-off, narrated the ordeal of telecom consumer in his pro-consumer speech. The NCC’s EVC, Prof. Danbatta, did not only state the obvious, but empathized with the consumer who bears the brunt of ineptitudes of Network Operators.
If the NCC will march its words with corresponding actions, I foresee a future for Nigerian Telecom Consumer, filled with satisfactory telecom services. Improved Quality of Service (QoS) will not only be taken for granted, but will become part of the fundamental rights of Nigerian telecom subscribers.
The NCC, not too long ago, summoned all the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to a crucial stakeholders meeting, where riot act was read to them on the urgency of enhancing proficiency of telecom services being rendered to the subscribers. There is no doubt that the appointment of Prof. Garba Danbatta as the Executive Vice Chairman of the telecom regulatory commission will make Nigerian telecom consumers to heave sigh of relief, as regards quality of services.
The quest to promote and protect the warfare of telecom consumer will run concurrently with that of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). Making Nigerian telecom consumer king does not necessarily imply that the NCC will declare “war” on the Network Operators.
As a regulator, the NCC has the mandate to ensure all its key stakeholders are protected and their interests balanced in an atmosphere of openness and transparency; and within the framework of the Nigerian Communications Act of 2003 and other subsidiary legislations.
The recent prompt intervention of the NCC in the debt dispute between Etisalat and its creditors—consortium of bankers, has not only saved Etisalat from being taken over based on non-performing loans worth $1.2 billion, being owed these banks, but ensured the protection of over 21 million telecom consumers on the embattled Mobile Network Operator. Thousands of Nigerians, who earns their living working directly or indirectly for Etisalat, were also given lifeline.
If Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had acted proactively like the NCC did in the case of Etisalat, Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) would not have taken over Arik Airlines and Aero Contractors on the issue of debt. And thousands of jobs already lost, as a result of this development would have been saved. The NCC should be commended for recognising the indispensible place of the consumer in the dynamics of telecom market in Nigeria.