Nigerians slam telecoms services

By Lukas Ajanaku, Lagos, Nigeria

Nigeria's huge army of telephone subscribers has called on the Federal Government to do something about what they described as the current punitive tariff regime, poor service quality and low internet speeds in the country.

Speaking at the eighth edition of consumer parliament in Lagos, representatives of consumer groups urged telecoms service providers and the government to take action.

Hajia Iyabode Dange, a market women leader, said she was speaking on behalf of the millions of Nigerians who, she said, were voiceless.

She urged service providers to do something about the current high tariffs in the country. “I represent the voiceless segment of the society that uses your service. We want tariffs to go down,” she said.

Another delegate, Dr Ogundipo, who said he provides value added services to organisations,  said there is the problem of ease of access as there are usually no auto-response to complaints. He also slammed tariffs, describing them as  “killing.” According to him, doing business under the current tariff regime is Herculean as they are running at a loss.

Another subscriber, Oludare Onasanya, said internet connection is important to enterprise survival in a modern world. He called for access speed to be improved to help enterprises survive.

He said the service providers were all neck-deep in promos which he said is aimed at “taking back from the people” adding that the operators had to contribute to growing enterprise in the country.

Responding to the barrage of complaints from subscribers, an official of one of the operators blamed problems on many factors, including punitive costs of energy and the security of telecoms infrastructure.

He said the time had come for the National Assembly to declare telecoms infrastructure as critical national infrastructure to give it adequate legal protection, so in the event of vandalism, appropriate legal action would be instituted.

While he agreed that internet access speeds fall below expectations, he blamed this on problems associated with distribution of bandwidth.

Responding to the clamour for reduced tariffs and complaints about the absence of enterprise packages to help drive enterprise growth and development, Funmi Omogenigun, general manager, corporate communications at MTN Nigeria, gave the assurance that tariffs would still go down. However, he said this hinged on two factors: competition and boost in capacity.

She said MTN had a department devoted to enterprise growth and development, adding that the department has been up and doing, providing enterprise solutions to enterprise bodies.

Also speaking at the gathering, Dr Eugene Juwah, executive vice chairman/CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), acknowledged that the industry still faced some challenges.

“The main challenge has been that of quality of service that has not reached the envisaged level of efficiency. Erratic public power supply, vandalisation of telecom infrastructure, lack of basic infrastructure, high level insecurity, multiple taxation, militancy, all collectively affect expectations from the industry,” Juwah said.

He said the NCC had been issuing regulatory directions to the industry to ensure that stakeholders keep to the rule, arguing that there have been numerous guidelines on different services provided by service providers.

He added that because consumer interest is considered as key to the performance of the industry, the NCC created Consumer Affairs Bureau which specifically ensures that consumers’ interests are adequately protected. The bureau has been able to discharge this responsibility through its PIE Mandate: i.e designed to Protect, Inform and Educate the consumers on issues of interest.

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