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Nigeria: NCC intervenes in telco govt dispute

Nigeria: NCC intervenes in telco's dispute with Minister

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has intervened on behalf of telecommunication service providers in a stand-off between companies and the Minister of Communication Dr Isa Ibrahim Pantami over data prices.

In November 2019, telcos ignored a directive by the Minister ordering them to reduce the price of data in the country within five days.

In a statement, the minister claimed that Nigerians were not enjoying internet services despite the high cost of data in the country.

An excerpt from the statement reads: "It is unacceptable that with the prevailing high cost of data in Nigeria, the citizens still do not enjoy value for money as subscribers battle daily with illegal deduction of data, poor quality of service, among others. It is against this backdrop that the minister directed the NCC, the telecom regulators, to immediately work hand-in-hand with the telecoms operators and ensure a downward review of the price of data in Nigeria."

Represented through the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), local telcos did not reduce their data prices and described the Minister's order as "dictatorial" and one that could discourage investment in the country's telecommunications industry.

ALTON's president Gbenga Adebayo described the directive as unrealistic and insensitive.

He added that the Minister failed to consider the operating costs incurred by telcos and that it was unrealistic for the government to expect a cost reduction in data within five days.

The NCC did not issue a new directive to operators, but did inform the Minister of actions it is taking to protect consumers against practices such as automatic renewal and forceful subscription to data and value added services.

During a recent meeting with the Minister, the NCC outlined challenges facing local telcos including fibre cuts, vandalism and site access denial.

The regulator added that Nigeria's call drop rate of 1% is in line with international standards, and highlighted data-draining factors on consumers' phones.

Bako Wakil, Director, Technical Standards and Network Integrity at the NCC, said, "The reasons for the rise in data consumption and depletion, which is classified by some users as 'illegal deduction', include the advancement in technology, which has led to the rise in applications, updates and services that leverage on this technology and advancement of supportive data infrastructure."

In response the Minister commended NCC and said: "We can re-strategise and heighten campaigns in all media, especially in local languages."

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