Telcom Firms Shun Isa Pantami’s Data Cut Directive
The ministerial directive on reduction of data cost has been ignored by telecommunication firms. It was learnt that the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) has not given the instruction to the operators.
Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, gave the order on October 20 after receiving the progress report on the implementation of Short-Term Performance Targets set for the NCC. The minister re-issued the directive on November 5, saying he was not satisfied with the explanations of the Commission. He NCC five days ultimatum to get the operators to reduce the cost of data and stop what he called “illegal deductions from subscribers”. But 20 days after the ultimatum, the directive has not been implemented, dampening the morale of telecoms subscribers who had been pushing for lower data cost and telephone end user tariff. A source in NCC said the minister’s directive had not been complied with because it will amount to breaching the law. According to the source, there are procedures laid down in the law establishing the NCC, adding that doing anything contrary to that will amount to illegality. The Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, said the telcos have not received any directive from the NCC. The NCC source said there are processes and procedures that have to be followed as a matter of law before data cost can be tampered with.
Another source explained that the NCC has no power under Section 108-110 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 to prescribe retail price.
The source said: “The law does not give the NCC that power. What the law allows the Commission to do is to ensure that tariffs reflect costs of providing services. That is why NCC is mandated to carry out cost-based studies from time to time and as may be deemed fit to fix prices for floors and for ceilings. That way, no operator can under-price to kill its competitors,” the source explained. Adebayo said the telcos do not make any illegal deduction as being alleged, adding that smartphone users should monitor the applications that run on their devices. According to him, the smartphones being used by the subscribers were to blame for such deductions. The ALTON chief said pricing is not a policy matter but strictly determined by market forces, including cost of operation. Dr. Pantami had said it was disturbing that despite the boom in internet usage, the average price of data in the country was higher than obtainable in most African countries.