One of the consumer rights groups in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, the National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) has advocated for a consumer representative in the board of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
The national president of NATCOMS, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, made this call while evaluating ‘A Decade of NCC’s Telecommunications Consumerism,’ just as he solicited voice call tariff reduction to N20.00.
He said that this call has become vital because it was provided for in the Nigeria Communications Act.
According to him, if the operators pay their dues to NCC as stipulated by the Act based on subscribers’ patronage of these operators, it is therefore imperative to have a consumer representation in the board of NCC.
NATCOMS cited an instance, with the Nigerian Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), where the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is represented in the board.
“There are many other government agencies, councils, commissions, parastatals that are having relevant industry non-governmental organizations as board members,” he said.
Some of these, he said included the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) having a representative of the National Parent Teacher Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN) in the board.
NATCOMS, Ogunbanjo said, would like to know who is representing “the Consumer in the board of NCC as provided for in the Nigerian Communications Commission Act?”
While commending the NCC for the slash in the Short Messaging Service (SMS) tariffs, NATCOMS urged the regulator to make it free as is in the case of Ghana, Gambia, Australia and Switzerland.
Although he noted it took NCC about 18 months to graduate SMS inter-connect rate to its present rate of N1.94, NATCOMS boss canvassed for it to be free.
“Why is SMS not FREE also in Nigeria, considering the volume of Subscribers in Nigeria?” NATCOMS boss wondered.
Stressing that though NCC has disclosed plans to reduce SMS interconnect rate to N1.02 by January 2013, it would be good to make it absolutely free service due to the surge in growth of telecommunications users in the country.
He charged the NCC, to go beyond fixing the inter-connect rate, which NATCOMS said is the base rate by extending the reduction to the price cum tariff cap.
“If the tariff reduction is to make any meaning to subscribers and consumers, the current leadership of NCC must also reduce the price cum tariff cap from the very, very high N50.00 mark to reasonable N20.00 for voice calls in view of the volume of subscribers in Nigeria, as well as reducing the price and tariff cap of N15.00 to N2.00 for SMS / Text messaging,” he said.
Ogunbanjo also cited Sierra Leone, arguing that the Telecommunications Regulator holds consumers’ consultations before tariffs are fixed.
NATCOMS, therefore called on NCC to emulate this aspect from its counterpart in Sierra Leone, as any step taken would affect all Nigerians.
“Telecommunications in Nigeria has gone beyond being the exclusive preserve of the rich and wealthy, fashion, power and status symbol; it is now a necessity and a must-have piece of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) gadget for the poor, artisans, villagers as well as the down-trodden,” he declared.
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