The House of Representatives on Monday summoned the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Senator Chris Ngige, over reported mass sacking of workers by telecommunications service providers in recent times.
An ad hoc committee of the House, which is chaired by Mr. Ahmed Abu, is investigating the development.
The committee gave Ngige the next 10 days to make himself available before lawmakers to address the issue.
The committee expressed worries that the service providers were reportedly laying off employees without observing extant labour rules and procedures.
The committee had summoned the minister soon after it met with the Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian communications commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta, on Monday.
Ironically, the EVC had told the committee that the NCC could not interfere in the matter because, by the provision of the NCC’s Act, the commission was not empowered to make inquiries into the nominal roll of the operators.
He, however, shared the pains of the employees so far affected by the layoffs, saying that the current economic hardship would be heavier on their families.
He told lawmakers that the commission would prefer that the industry created more jobs as against laying off employees.
Danbatta noted that while the NCC was restrained by the Act, the labour ministry on the hand, could look into all labour issues in the country.
“These are labour issues and therefore, outside the mandate of the commission.
“There is really nothing that we can do”, he stated.
But, when he was asked a question on the poor services provided by the operators, like dropped calls, Danbatta claimed that the commission was working hard to ensure full compliance with the guidelines on service delivery and customer satisfaction.
Although he tried to put up a defence for service providers, giving excuses such as lack of infrastructure, Danbatta concluded by saying that the NCC would invoke penalties against the operators where clear breaches were established.
According to him, the commission is assisting the operators in talking with the Central Bank of Nigeria so that they can access forex easily to import equipment that will be installed to enhance service delivery.
The committee is investigating several issues in the telecommunications sector, including finding out whether the terms of employment under which operators engage Nigerians to meet international standard.
Their tax compliance status and the conditions applied in the transfer of funds between them, the NCC and the CBN.