Telecom operators in Nigeria said yesterday that the directive by the Federal Government that cost of data should be reviewed downward in five days is “unrealistic and insensitive” considering the high operating cost in the country.
The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) told newsmen yesterday that the Federal Government’s directive was “dictatorial and could scare away investors from the country.”
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, yesterday, directed the Board and Management of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to resolve the issues of illegal data deduction and review downwards, the price of data within five days.
Dr Pantami issued the directive during the presentation of Barrister Adeleke Moronfolu Adewolu, the new board member and Executive Commissioner.
Adewolu was presented to the minister by the Chairman of the NCC Board, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye at the ministry’s headquarters in Abuja.
The minister pointed out that there were numerous complaints from Nigerians regarding illegal data deduction and high price of data, adding that he had personally experienced illegal data deduction.
“I am urging the management of NCC to work towards reducing the price of data in Nigeria. It is too costly and people are complaining every day,” the minister said.
“If you go to other countries, even countries that are not as largely populated as Nigeria, data prices are not this high. I am also a victim of some of the infractions that are so common in the industry. You load your data but you barely use 20 per cent of it and the entire data is wiped off.
“The last time I commented on the issue of illegal data deduction…This is one of the issues that worry me badly today. Engr. Wakil making a presentation on behalf of EVC (Executive Vice Chairman), he tried to defend the operators on one hand and the commission on the other, but I was not fully convinced with the explanation.
“Please go, sit down and review that issue. It is very important and I want to get your feedback with that report in the next five working days with the decision on it because the complaint from Nigerian is beyond what I can handle as it is today, people are complaining,” he said.
Dr Pantami charged NCC to facilitate the penetration and expansion of 3G and 4G and urged the commission to design a target on how mobile operators could expand penetration in Nigeria.
He, however, said government was aware of the challenges mobile operators were experiencing in their business such as vandalism and issues of Right of Way (ROW).
According to him, “the way we pursue the mobile operators to do what is right, we should also work together to protect their interest and resolve the challenges they face.”
The minister said the main agenda of NCC should be to protect the interest of customers, saying “and our priority is to protect Nigerians.”
According to him, “It is our collective responsibility to make sure we give 100 per cent support to Mr. President to deliver his key mandate.”
He charged the new commissioner to use his experience and support the board to fight corruption, noting that the success of NCC and the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy is the success of Nigeria.
Speaking on the new directive, ALTON’s chairman, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, told reporters in a telephone interview that NCC should be allowed some level of independence.
“It shouldn’t be muzzled so that the gains recorded in the country’s telecom industry are not reversed,” he said.
He wondered how the new directive will work without a good framework that will save the huge investments made by the telecom operators.
“I don’t know how the government is going to achieve that (data reduction) in five days. Have they put into consideration the high cost of operating our businesses and the very harsh operating environment we are in?” he asked.
“Why are they trying to muzzle the NCC and stampede it into doing what is unrealistic? Do they know that operators don’t just sit down and fix tariffs” They, with NCC, rely on so many things before coming up with tariffs.
“We do not know under what circumstances the directive was given, and to be honest with you, we don’t know how that is going to be achieved.
“We have said it several times that when policies interfere with commercial matters, the industry will be jeopardised. Government needs to be careful not to whittle down the powers of the regulator.
“To arrive at prices NCC normally conducts survey and research, and after all that, it will benchmark the country’s tariffs based on what is obtained in other jurisdictions,” he said.
Newsmen report that a survey recently released by Cable .co.uk indicated that 10 of the top 50 cheapest countries in the world for mobile data were in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Also, seven North African countries included in the report appeared higher up in the table than majority of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The report included data from 6,313 mobile data plans in 230 countries around the world between October 23 and November 28, 2018.
The average cost of one gigabyte of data was then calculated and compared to create a world wide mobile data pricing league table.
In Africa, which is the poorest continent by GDP per capita, countries in the southernmost part pay the most for 1GB at $7.19 for South Africa, $11.2 for Namibia and $14.12 for Botswana.
In West Africa, Nigeria’s 1GB could be obtained at $3.22, while in Chad it is $23. 3. It goes for $1.71 in Cameroon, $4.1 in Ivory Cost and $2.92 in Niger.
In the North African region, Algeria’s 1GB goes for $5.15; Egypt’s IGB goes for $1.49, Libya’s $4.87and in Sudan it cost $0.6.
The survey said India had the world’s cheapest data plan at $0.10 for 1GB, adding that in the US, it goes for $12.37 and $6.66 in UK.
The global average of 1GB data plan is $8.53.
Zimbabwe pays the highest price in the world at $75.20 per 1GB, followed closely by Equatorial Guinea at $65.83, Saint Helena at $55.47 and Djibouti at $37.92.
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday said the telecommunications companies operating in Nigeria are “robbing” Nigerians of their hard earned monies.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Oluremi Tinubu (APC Lagos Central), made the allegation during budget defence by the NCC.
“The Telecommunications companies are robbing Nigerians of their hard earned money,” Tinubu said.
She said that senate would do everything possible to ensure that Nigerians using their services got value for their money.
The Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Professor Umar Garba Dambata, said the commission was working hard to ensure there was broadband internet in all the 774 Local government areas in Nigeria.
He said the commission would ensure quality services were given to Nigerians, so that the people would have value for their money.
Dambata, who also pointed out that multiple taxations were negatively affecting telecom operators, stated that they had stopped the USSD billing.
“There is no USSD billing. In fact, the minister said that it has been cancelled. No consumer is being charged on the USSD,” he said.