[daily independent] Last month, the Minister of Information and Communication, Professor Dora Akunyuli, read what could be described as a riot act to the telecom operators in the country.
Indeed the minister's words reflect the mindset of millions of Nigerians about questions begging for answers in the industry.
Among several things the minister urged the operators to address within the next six months included the quality of service, which has become terrible despite the interest and commitment of Nigerians into the sector and the SIM card registration.
The minister hit the nail on the head saying, "we are currently experiencing a boom in the Nigerian telecom market and government intends to ensure that this growth profile is sustainable through sound policies and regulatory framework" adding that, "despite the global economic downturn, our industry has remained resilient and continues to deliver superior returns on investment."
As sweet as the minster word are, the tariff charged by the operators is making the pockets of Nigerian subscribers to leak; the number of Nigerian subscribers is now above 78 million, making the country mobile market the third largest in the world.
It is no news in Nigeria that today as noted by Akunyuli that "regrettably, poor quality of service has become a recurring decimal", she said government is deeply concerned about this seeming problem.
Dropped calls remain a problem despite constant appeals to the operators to improve on it. "Poor voice signal quality and reception is becoming peculiar to Nigeria. It is not only wasting our money and time but also creating a very bad image. It is creating a terrible culture of Nigerians shouting on the phone instead of talking" the minister said.
Without mincing words, Akunyuli in her usual populist style went on to say "we have listed concerns and we expect you operators to address them within the next six months failing which, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) will not hesitate to invoke regulatory sanctions on erring operators."
However, going by the position of Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) led by Titi Omo-Ettu, Nigerians will have to wait a while before the words of the minster can begin to yield the expected fruits.
A diplomatic Omo-Ettu, who believes the minister got most of her facts wrong, said "a child abuses the iroko tree and expects to be struck by the iroko immediately; it takes time for the iroko tree to strike."
Though, he pledged that his members would obey the minister's order but the reality is that the subscribers have to take their destiny into their own hands by raising their voices to high Heaven for things to change radically.
"If you have 78 million SIM cards to register God help you if you are able to do one million registrations in one week. If you are able to register one million in one week, then you require 78 weeks to get through it. So if somebody tells you, you must complete it in three months does it not make sense you request that person to kindly listen to you?"
Omo-Ettu agreed that Akunyuli's concern "is about protecting the operators' investments and making sure that telephone consumers get value for their money. " That is good and that is also what we want. The Minister may have however got her facts wrong because there was no basis for her allegations and choice of words."
As Nigerians continue to follow developments in the industry, only time would tell maybe government would act as warned through Akunyuli to the operators who feel things have to go at their own pace.
The government must consider a lot of options including incentives and building of infrastructure. If both parties are not fooling themselves, it is high time they placed the interest of Nigerians above their selfish motives and allow economic revolution to favour the ordinary man. Government and the operators know where the shoe pinches the people. It is better they address that rather than fooling the people with claims and counter claims.
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