Obviously, the Nigerian Telecommunications Commission (NCC) is not only an enemy of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government but also a big enemy of Nigerians.
This is because the commission is determined to add to the suffering Nigerians are going through now.
If not, then the big question to ask NCC is: what is the rationale behind the recent order given to mobile telephone operators in the country to hike data tariffs?
The deadline to enforce this order is December 1, 2016 and expectedly, Nigerians are already up in arms against this despotic and anti-people directive.
A Lagos lawyer, Martins Ojuaye, told Freedom Online: “With this order, it looks as if people working in NCC are on a mission to kill Nigerians. They are not angels from God but from the devil. And coming at a time when a leading financial and media company, Bloomberg, is criticising the economic policy of the government, it is clear that a cabal has hijacked NCC with a mission to impose an economic policy that will further impoverish Nigerians.
Ojuaye is not the only angry Nigerian. Many telecommunications stakeholders are already kicking against the order, describing it as unacceptable.
The order from NCC reads: “The Commission has carefully reviewed all submissions and hereby make the following Determinations: the interim price floor for Data Services is No.90k/MB for big operators. This rate will subsists, pending the finalisation of the study on the Determination of Cost Based Pricing for Retail Broadband and Data Services in Nigeria; in order to promote a level playing field for all operators in the industry, encourage small operators and new entrant to acquire market share and operate profitably. Small operators and new entrants are hereby exempted from price floor for data services; for avoidance of doubt, a small operator is one that has less than 7.5 per cent of market share and a new entrant is an operator that has operated less than three years in the market.”
The letter to the telcos also reminded them that the effective date for the interim price floor is December 1, adding that “in view of the above, all service providers should ensure that tariff for data service reflects the Determination”.
The letter, with NCC/PCEA/T&C/TRF/MTN/006 as reference number, was jointly endorsed by the Director, Policy, Competition and Economic Analysis, Josephine Amuwa and Head, Legal and Regulatory Services, Yetunde Akinloye.
Ambrose Okonjo, who operates a business centre in Ikeja, Lagos said the only option is for Nigerians to relocate to Ghana or any other neighbouring country.
He said: “Everybody can see now that telecoms operators are not the problem but NCC. This anti-people policy will shut more people out of internet access. Of course, it will affect theINTERNET BUSINESS”.
To the President, National Association of Telecoms Consumers of Nigeria (NATCOMS), Deolu Ogunbanjo, the directive is counterproductive. “Many businesses depend on the internet as an enabler but with an increase in data tariffs, it will affect the pockets of consumers and hinder further internet penetration in the country”.
Also, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has urged the Federal Government to drop the plan immediately to avoid further pressure on mobile telephone users.
Mr Bobooi Kaigama, the President of the congress, who made the call in a statement in Lagos, said that the decision of government to jerk up the cost of data could increase insecurity, adding that “it is unacceptable’’.
Kaigama said that the increase in rate would further frustrate the people who were already burdened by high cost of goods and services.
“We feel worried about the move because data is one of the cheapest ways to empower the teaming youth. This move, if allowed, will make it unaffordable. This is insensitive on the part of the parties involved,” the TUC President said.
He further said that government should increase awareness for citizens’ participation in Information Communication Technology (ICT) rather than dampen their spirit to embrace the technology.
According to him, the decision, if implemented, will obstruct the drive to increase youths’ participation in ICT.
“What then will be the benefit of the policy to the self employed who depend on data for their businesses? Cheap internet data is a vehicle to economic development. It is very unfortunate and inhuman to come up with such idea at a period of recession,” he said.
Kaigama said that any call for increase in prices of goods and services at the moment was uncalled for.
He, therefore, urged the government to create policies that would encourage investment and stimulate growth and boost businesses instead.
Mr Olusola Teniola, the President Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) said that with the increase, other telecoms companies would jerk up their prices, which would adversely affect subscribers.
He said that operators would also increase the cost of megabytes, which consumers could not afford at this time of economic recession.
“So, what we are saying at ATCON is that no taxes should be applied in this industry and if there any taxes, it should also include other sectors.
“Already, the cost of data will go up in December and subscribers will not be getting as much data as they paid for,’’ he said.
Mr Edwin Okolo, a computer scientist said that the increase in the cost of data “is uncalled for’’, adding that there should be other avenues for government toMAKE MONEY.
“What we are saying is that we want every Nigerian to be linked with the internet and you are planning to increase the cost of data, so it is no longer for the poor,’’ he said.
Chukwudi Okon, a data analyst, believes “those who initiated this policy in this era of recession should be taken to a psychiatric hospital for proper check up”.
“What they don’t know is that the new tariff will gag information, lead to undue oppression, cut off some subscribers from enjoying data services and stunt telecoms industry growth. Honestly, something must be wrong with them. And I don’t blame them because most of them don’t even know the importance of ICT. Nigerians youths would be the worst hit”.