Senate investigates GSM operators over drop in voice calls

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… to launch commission against illegal use of small arms, light weapons

By our correspondents.

A Senate panel on Wednesday held a public hearing to investigate telecommunications network operators in the country over increasing rate of drop calls. President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan has asked the telecommunication operators in the country to refund to their customers money which they paid on drop calls. The public hearing was conducted by joint Senate committees on Communications, Trade and Investment.

Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Oluremi Tinubu consulting with the Senate President Ahmad Lawan According to the chairman of the Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, the session was specifically “on the increasing rate of drop calls and other unwholesome practices by telecommunications network operators in Nigeria that have robbed Nigerians of their hard earned billions of naira.”

The public hearing was held sequel to a resolution of the Senate last July mandating the two committees to jointly investigate the allegations of cheating through drop calls by the communications network operators. Declaring open the forum, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan said the GSM service providers in the country have shortchanged their customers through drop calls for quite a while.

“The drop calls shortchange consumers. To me, it’s a very serious issue and we have been with it since as far as I can remember. We have been shortchanged for a long time. We consider this development unacceptable.

“We mandated our committees to thoroughly investigate the issue of drop calls. This is in the interest of the people we represent. And even the people who only come to Nigeria either for tourism or business or whatever.

“What happens in Nigeria, especially as far as the attitude and behavior of the service providers hardly happens anywhere in the world. What MTN does in Nigeria, MTN doesn’t do that in South Africa. All other service providers are also culpable. We have witnessed it for years. Maybe the time has come for us to reject it.

“Going forward, it’s not only making it better, but what happened to all the money that we paid for no service rendered. I think the committee should insist on what happens to all the money people in this country paid for no service. Other countries give money back. But here you denied us and you don’t give one Kobo.

“So this public hearing is not going to be like the other previous ones. Everybody complain of drop calls except the operators because that is booming business for them.

“And the kind of market that we have in Nigeria, is such that you don’t have this market anywhere in the world. When a Nigerian will have three lines, yet we don’t get the service that we paid for,” Lawan said.

The Senate President also accused the regulatory authority, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) of not doing enough to check the sharp practices by the Service Providers.

“NCC will have to sit up because NCC, sometimes, is either inept or it is simply flowing with the service providers. “So we want to see a situation that this public hearing will provide a way out to save us as Nigerians. That when we pay for services, we get value for money. That is business. Maybe it’s difficult to say if you can’t perform, get out of the country, maybe it’s difficult but it is not impossible.

“Whoever will provide better Service, I think Nigerians will be better advised to use that service whatever it takes and whoever is not, Nigerians should avoid such service provider. But at the moment, all the service providers are involved in these drop calls,” Lawan asserted.

However, the Senate on Wednesday considered a bill seeking to establish the National Commission against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons.

Sponsor of the bill, Senator Smart Adeyemi (APC – Kogi West), said the functions of the commission when established will among others include identifying sources and routes of small arms and ammunitions; identifying those involved in the illicit trade; and providing harmonisation of intelligence and information collection.

According to Adeyemi, the proliferation of small arms and weapons is a phenomenon responsible for destabilising the peace, development and threatening the national security of some countries in Africa.

Noting that the local root cause of conflicts are numerous and diverse, Adeyemi, however, said that in all local conflicts, the diffusion of illegal arms and weapons of terror has played a decisive role in the escalation and intensification of these conflicts.

He said, “The proliferation of these weapons affects the intensity and duration of violence and encourages militancy rather than a peaceful resolution of unsettled differences.

“In Nigeria, this has become a serious security challenge, there is general insecurity as most parts of the country experience high level crimes perpetrated using illicit arms.

“The effects of illegal arms and weapons of terror in Nigeria are self-explanatory an calls for concerted effort by all and sundry to successfully prosecute this war against terror. The support, collaboration and involvement of all genuine stakeholders is a condition precedent to winning the war.”

Senator Adamu Aliero while lending his voice in support of the passage of the bill, accused men of the Nigeria Customs Service of conniving with arms dealers to smuggle in small arms into the country through the borders.

He added that if the bill was not passed into law by the National Assembly, “violence will continue” unabated.

The bill which scaled second reading on the floor during plenary was referred by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to the Committee on National Security and Intelligence to report back in four weeks.

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