Nigeria govt talks tough over service quality

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria

The Federal Government has read the riot act to telcos over consistent poor service quality, threatening to institute legal action against any of them that falls foul of the law, a move industry see as intention to address the issue once and for all.

 Minister of Communications Technology, Omobola Jonhson, who disclosed this at media parley with senior journalists, said the Ministry of Communication Technology,  the Consumer Protection of Nigeria (CPN) and the regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) are collaborating to sanction or prosecute erring telecoms operators that have been delivering poor quality service to Nigerians.

She lamented that despite the fact that the Ministry has been working relentlessly to provide an enabling environment for the deployment of ICT infrastructure such as base transmission stations and optic fibre cable, the poor service quality persisted, adding that the pains subscribers go through necessitated the collaboration with NCC and CPC.

Johnson said henceforth, subscribers with genuine cases that seek redress will promptly get reprieve in such cases as usage irregularities, inaccurate billing and opportunities to opt out of unsolicited SMS messages.

According to her, subscribers are daily faced with poor network service delivery that makes it impossible for consumers to receive calls. Drop calls and lack of sustainability of calls, unsolicited text messages at odd hours, unsolicited telemarketing calls, deceptive broadband speed adverts by some service providers and failure of service delivery, without compensation to consumers are other challenges faced by the subscribers.

Others challenges include insufficient customer care lines,  unrelenting sales promotion, despite poor network service delivery, non-compensation to consumers for loss of airtime and poor service delivery, and network insecurities characterised by  uncontrollable interruptions on networks by unidentifiable third parties.

Operators have in the last few years listed challenges confronting and limiting their ability to deliver effective quality service as  multiple regulation and taxation,  Illegal access denials and site shut-outs, inadequate power supply, lack of incentives to drive service penetration to the remote and rural areas, rent seeking charges for permits and approvals necessary for deployment, security etc.

But to address some of these obstacles, she said the Ministry, in partnership with the Ministry of Works, developed new Right of Way (RoW) guidelines for Federal Government roads to enable operators have unencumbered means of laying OFC which is critical for infrastructure development and quality of service. To remove arbitrary charges and eradicate multiple taxations that impede telecoms development across the nation.

Johnson recently brokered an understanding among state governors and relevant authorities at the state and federal level to address the issue of multiple taxation and adopt measures that will remove arbitrary charges and eradicate multiple taxations to enhance service delivery across the nation.

At a closed door meeting with Governor Fashola last week, the Ministry facilitated a landmark agreement to remove constraints to the installation, rollout and deployment of BTS and OFC in the state. Lagos State at the meeting agreed to reduce taxes, and levies in Lagos by over 40 per cent and RoW fees were reduced from N3000 to N500-reduction of over 85 per cent.  

She said the Federal Government will no longer condone poor service delivery to subscribers and reiterated that henceforth, it’s no longer shall be business as usual, and operators must rise up to redress the current poor state of quality service delivery.  

She said: “We are concerned that the poor quality issues still abound.  I am inundated with complaints about quality of service and the seemingly uncaring attitude of our telecoms operators to resolve these issues on a regular basis. We will continue, through the industry regulator to apply sanctions when operators fail to meet the required standards in terms of service quality breaches. However, consumers cannot continue to bear the burden of poor service delivery. Though we are mindful that the operators are facing issues in deploying or maintaining infrastructure, we believe that operators can do better in delivering acceptable quality of service which they are clearly not doing.’’

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