By Sabastine Mbah
“The mouse that has but one hole is quickly taken”. This will likely be the fate of over 100 million users of Global System for Mobile (GSM) Communication in the coming days.
The GSM operators under the auspices of Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) have proposed plans to increase their tariff even while it is glaring that the economy is biting hard on an average Nigerian. The union in a letter sent to the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) is requesting for an approval for a 40 percent hike in tariff.
If this goes through which most certainly will considering the Nigeria factors and government’s indifference towards the plight of the masses, Nigerians should brace up and be ready to cough out more money in other to say “hello” to family, friends and business partners. The new tariff will see voice calls fly from N6.4k to N8.95k while Short Message Service (SMS) jump from N4 to N5.61k to reflect the 40 percent increase proposed by ALTON.
However, speaking with MMS Plus, last week, the spokesperson of NCC, Mr. Ikechukwu Adinde was not forthcoming with answers to questions but the agency had said in all official statement that the proposed tariff hike by operators was not realistic in 2022 fiscal year.
The 2003 Nigerian Communication Act (NCA 2003) Section 108 empowers the NCC as a regulatory body to approve tariffs and other charges for the provision of services by licensed telecom service providers.
NCC had also said there was no budgetary provision in the 2022 budget to embark on a cost-based study on the market segments to determine the suitability or otherwise of any hike in tariff.
But contacted the Head of Operations,ALTON, Mr. Bola Awonuga said the association wrote to NCC to bring it up to speed on the tough realities the operators are currently facing and for regulatory intervention.
In his words: “What we wrote to NCC was for regulatory intervention. Don’t forget we are not isolated from what is happening in the country, we are also not isolated from the economic situation of the country. We are the highest users of diesel or fuel in Nigeria today and if diesel can go from N225 to N750 and likely heading to N1, 000 what do you expect if you are in the business?”
He argued that as a result of the high cost of diesel that even Banks now close between 2 to 3pm to be able to cut cost instead of applying more stringent measures like total shutdown or downsizing. He however confirmed that neither ALTON nor operators on their own have the powers to increase tariff and that explains the association’s method of managing the proposal.
Mr Awonuga said it is now within the court of NCC to carry out its own research and come up with a resolution that will be beneficiary to all parties.
Speaking also on the uproar by users on the continuous low quality of services and over bloated bonuses which are not able to be utilized, Awonuga linked the low quality of services to Infrastructure and government charges while debunking that of bloated bonuses as misleading. In his words, “don’t forget that our service depends on the terrestrial infrastructure, if there is no infrastructure you cannot offer service. The government has not made things easy for operators to deploy infrastructure based on the outrageous charges that they have given to Operators”.
He also alleged that about 75 percent of resources is used to source for approval alone before one thinks of deploying infrastructure so to get this done, operators have to look for where they will be welcome. He emphatically called on government to assist operators deploy infrastructure for improve services.
Another official of ALTON who preferred anonymity referred to the proposal as a threat, saying though that the threat was no more in the front banner but it still holds. He contradicted Awonuga’s claim saying that the issues which precipitated the proposed hike may have sorted themselves out somehow. He declined to explain further what he meant by threat.
The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council (FCCPC) were contacted on what actions they have outlined to protect consumer’s right, the commission said unless the NCC takes action on the issue, it won’t be saying or doing anything yet.
From all indication, it is now the prerogative of NCC to decide the fate of consumers with regards to the proposed hike in tariff.