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Retail price extortion: Telecom subscribers dump MTN recharge cards, adopt mobile banking

By Ebenezer Adaramodu and Benedict Adoghe

Investigations have revealed that the hike in retail prices of MTN voucher by vendors has made network subscribers to dump the purchase of recharge cards  and made swift drift to a more convenient system – mobile banking – to purchase airtime.

 Our findings show that vendors now sell MTN voucher of N100 for N110, while selling recharge cards of other telecoms operators such as  Airtel, Globacom, and 9Mobile at the normal prices of N100, N200, N500 and N1,000 respectively.

This report of NewsDirect investigation corroborate the fact that  hike  in prices of commodities still dominate the day-to-day business activities of Nigerians despite the report by the Ministry of Finance that Nigeria has exited  the global economic meltdown.. This was blamed for the adoption of  1-0-1 feeding system, as recently reported by Nigerian NewsDirect.

Despite this extortion by vendors, MTN remains the most widely used network and service provider, according to monthly statistics released by the Nigerian Commu-nication Commission (NCC) for July 2017, it shows that internet subscribers data stood at a total of 91, 419, 943 which is in contrast to 91, 598, 757 recorded in Q2 of 2017. According to the report, the MTN accounts for 31, 863, 73 in July 2017  against 31, 691, 070  in Q2.

Monthly porting activities of mobile network operators show that 16,627 porting requests were conducted in the month of July 2017, where MTN had 1, 933, Globacom had 710, Airtel had 2, 277, while 9 mobile had the highest porting request with 11, 707 subscribers.

 Mobile number portability (MNP) enables mobile telephone users to retain their mobile telephone numbers when changing from one mobile network carrier to another.

 The percentage contribution of telecommunication companies to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria is nine percent as at the second quarter of this year, 2017.

 This market investigation conducted by Nigerian NewsDirect, expose the anger of telecom subscribers about the hike in prices of MTN vouchers by vendors and retailers.

Some MTN subscribers said they were very sad about the hike in prices of recharge cards, and feel it’s not the right thing to do. The extra charges do not reflect in the value of airtime purchased.

According to Mercy Osasu, she said, “The additional fee being added is not reflected in the voucher been bought which is another form of corruption by MTN, they just want to extort money from the masses.”

 A civil servant from Lagos, Mayowa Abayomi explained that he prefers using his Glo sim which he bought at the exact rate.

“I can’t even remember the last time I recharge my MTN line, the truth is I prefer to recharge my Glo sim at no extra cost,” he said.

 Businesswoman, Peace Ayodele, who spoke angrily said she can’t locate her MTN sim card because she can’t afford to buy airtime at extra charge.

“I can’t even find my MTN sim card because the MTN network is just too expensive, too frustrating.  I have dumped it somewhere, and when you purchase the recharge card, you don’t speak for long before the card gets exhausted,” she said.

 Retailers and vendors also lamented the lack of sales of MTN vouchers but affirmed they found solace in the sales of other networks.

 A vendor in Ijoko, a suburb of Ogun State, Mrs Beatrice Ogunjimi said, “The sales of MTN recharge cards is static, because of the extra N10  charges, customers prefer to buy other networks at the normal rate of N100.”

 While some subscribers avoided the extra charge on MTN vouchers by purchasing vouchers of other telecoms, some have adopted the Mobile banking system.

 Moshood Abiola Polytechnic student, Mark Ngorube said, “The world is now at an internet age, where you practically do everything with technology, so as such, I make use of mobile banking to avoid this unreasonable charges.”

 However, in a chat with Nigerian NewsDirect, the Head of Corporate Communications, WEMA Bank, Abiodun Aderibigbe, confirmed the increase in the usage of mobile banking by telecom subscribers due to hike in MTN vouchers.

“The truth is; the hike in prices of vouchers is one of the things that has given rise to the use of mobile banking application for people to buy airtime, and apart from that fact that it is easier and cheaper, you don’t need cash in hand to buy or purchase airtime, you can get stucked in an environment and promptly buy your airtime through your phone,” he said.

 As at the time of writing this report, Alat by WEMA had 50,000 downloads on Google Play Store, Access Bank Mobile, Zenith Bank Mobile, Union Bank Mobile, Ecobank Mobile and UBA mobile App all had 500,000 downloads respectively, while Jaiz Bank mobile and Heritage Bank Mobile had just 10,000 downloads respectively.

GTB mobile, Diamond Mobile and First Bank remained the most downloaded apps with one million downloads by android mobile phone users.

 When Aderibigbe was further asked on the huge downloads Alat by WEMA Bank has enjoyed on Google Play Store, he said, “It’s not only Alat, we have mobile phone banking code, *945#, even if you don’t have data, you can still recharge your phone with airtime. If you register your phone number with your account, *945* the amount you need and #, you don’t need data or select select any network. For instance, if I intend to load N1000 naira on my phone, I just need to dial *945*1000# to recharge my phone with airtime withdrawn data cost or extra cost,” he added.

 Investigation carried out by our correspondent further shows that *945# has the highest transactions carried out by telecom subscribers. The transactions carried out are airtime recharge and airtime transfer which ostensibly support the statistics that telecom subscribers have dumped MTN and adopted mobile banking system.

 Efforts to reach the telecom subscribers President, Deolu Ogunbanjo and MTN Public Relations Officer, Funsho Aina, to get their reactions on the recent happening proved abortive.

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