Danbatta: NCC Worried But Helpless over Job Cuts in Telecoms Sector

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Mulls tougher sanctions for poor service quality, ranking operators
James Emejo in Abuja
The Executive Vice-Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, on Monday expressed displeasure with the massive job cuts in the telecommunications sector but submitted that it was hamstrung by the Act setting up the commission to mediate in labour issues.

He said even though the commission desires to see the vibrancy in the industry translated to additional job creation in the economy, the NCC does not currently have the mandate to intervene in labour issues.

Danbatta however, admitted that though there had been slight improvement in the quality of service by telecoms operators compared to now, the overall level of improvement still remained low and of great concern.
He said operators have continued to violate the mandatory one per cent drop call limit set for them by the commission.

Consequently, he disclosed that the commission would soon unleash tougher sanctions on specific operators that have shown little or no commitment to enhancing their service quality.
Speaking when he appeared before the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee investigating the telecoms industry, Danbatta added that the commission would soon publish a ranking index for all telecoms operators indicating their service quality strength, with a view to stimulating competition among them.

Meanwhile, the investigation could not however, commence full steam yesterday as the NCC was yet to write to operators as requested by the committee to cooperate in its investigations.

Also, some crucial information and documents needed as background to the probe were yet to be supplied to the committee by the commission while the committee also resolved to write the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN )regarding an item in its probe- the repatriation of funds.

However, the Chairman of the ad-hoc committee, Hon Ahmed Abu (APC, Niger) told THISDAY that the committee will not pre-empt the outcome of its investigations instituted as a result of complaints by both consumers and investors in the industry.
He said the purpose of the probe was not to witch-hunt anybody but correct practices which are not right.

Among other things, the committee’s searchlight will be beamed on sales transactions pertaining to spectrum allocations.
THISDAY further gathered that operators are currently making overtures to the CBN to be provided a special window to access foreign exchange for importation of critical telecoms equipment to boost service delivery.
The industry is further lobbying the National Assembly to pass a crucial bill aimed at criminalising the vandalisation of telecoms equipment which is another identified cause of service flop.

Notwithstanding the excuses proffered by operators for their abysmal performances, the NCC said the commission would use its mandate to ensure that quality of service was improved.
He said the current quality standards in the country fell below both NCC and industry average adding that the commission currently had the capacity to monitor the performances of all operators- and will henceforth enforce compliance across the board.
NCC was issued a new date of May 23 to reappear before the committee with relevant documents for further hearing.