David Mark, Senate President
By Kunle Akogun
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Gilbert Nnaji, has threatened to invoke the necessary legislative provisions to either make the GSM operators in the country be sensitive to the sufferings of their customers or be asked to leave the nation’s business environment.
Nnaji, who made the remark at the Committee’s public hearing on The deteriorating service by Global System for Mobile Telecommunications (GSM) providers Wednesday, described as unacceptable the claim by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) that of all the telecommunication service providers, it was only MTN that is presently making profit since commencement of their operations in the country.
He said that Nigerian GSM users deserved the best service possible in view of the huge investments the federal government had made in the subsector, especially in the area of tax holidays upon license acquisition to enable the operators deploy sufficient infrastructure.
Nnaji, who is also the senator representing Enugu-East Senatorial District, further remarked that “after getting inundated with distress calls and messages from Nigerians about the incessant cases of dropped calls, bad network reception, unauthorized deductions of airtime, etc, the Senate as a responsive and socially-responsible institution, after series of interactive sessions towards addressing the lingering public outcry, subsequently decided to ascertain the level of culpability or otherwise of these network service providers in these issues with a view to advising the plenary appropriately”.
The Senate President, Senator David Mark, while declaring the event open decried the persistent poor quality of service by the GSM companies which, according to him, informed the adoption of the motion for the public hearing by the Senate.
Mark, who was represented by the Senate Minority Leader, Senator George Akume, further stated that the meeting was not for any other reason but an attempt to ensure that Nigerians get value for their money.
The NCC boss, Dr. Eugene Juwah had earlier in his presentation announced that the Commission had secured the cooperation of the Federal Capital Territory Administration to provide more telecommunication tower sites in Abuja as part of the perfected plans to boost the quality of service within the FCT and its environs.
He also disclosed that based on the records made available to the regulatory body, MTN was the only operator making profit.
Juwah further cited the absence of commensurate infrastructure to contain the ever-increasing subscriber base and lack of enabling regulations to enforce compliance on the operators, as the major challenges facing NCC in ensuring that the service providers offer Nigerians better quality of service, though added that the latter was resolved in January this year when it procured a body of regulations upon-which it recently imposed N1.17 billion on the network providers that performed below the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) set by NCC.
The GSM operators were unanimous in the claim that power, multiple taxation and regulations as well as insecurity of their facilities were the factors militating against the attainment of a sustainable improved quality of service.
But earlier the Minister for Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji, had enumerated the series of continued efforts of the ministry in making steady power supply available to the public. He pointed out that the haphazard manner the ministry was previously run accounted for the prevailing power outage being experienced and also implored the mobile operators to approach the ministry for mutual agreement on how interim special power supply could be provided for them to enhance their operations.
In his own contribution, the acting chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, Kabir M. Mashi, debunked the claim of multiple taxation as a hindrance to better quality of service, stressing that the constitution was very explicit on the statutory taxes or levies payable by businesses to all tiers of government and openly challenged the operators to come up with evidences of any illegal demand for payment traceable to governmental agencies.