As the Nigerian populace continue to groan under excruciating economic conditions and the heavy burden of high rate of inflation and cost of living imposed on them by the current economic recession in the country, the planned increase of data tariff by telco brand owners in collaboration with the National communications commission (NCC) would have been suicidal if not suspended.
The economics of Nigeria as a nation has come under serious challenges in recent times. The entire situation appears to have no remedy for in a long while. Prior to the emergence of the current administration, most Nigerians believe that the former head of state had what it takes to deliver the country from economic mess primarily occasioned by fall in price of crude oil which is the major source of revenue.
As a matter of fact, Economic Confidential checks show that, Nigerians are suffering, hungry and angry because of the current economic crisis that rendered most of them jobless, and even those that are working cannot adequately take care of themselves. For some Nigerian, the situation has gone beyond recession, the economy has collapsed completely and painfully, the government that is supposed to deliver the country and its people appear to have no direction on what to do.
While experts blame the situation on poor economic policies by previous administration, others are of the view that Nigerian are not sincere to themselves and the way out of this mess is to go back to a version, just a version, not completely, of the 1963 republican Constitution on prescription and revenue thing, where the regions have control over their resources including natural resources and simply pay tax to the federal government. The current harsh economic climate in Nigeria has seen to it that the price of everything has doubled while sizes are reduced to the bargain. It started with petrol a while back, now even Gala — the most popular sausage roll in Nigeria that has been ₦50 for more than a decade.
In all this, NCC in collaboration with operators had almost increased the price of data if not for the intervention of well-meaning Nigerians. In a letter by the NCC to the operators, the commission stated, “The rate will subsist pending the finalisation of the study on the determination of cost-based pricing for retail broadband and data services in Nigeria.
“In order to provide a level playing field for all operators in the industry, small operators and new entrants to acquire market share and operate profitably, small operators and new entrants are hereby exempted from the price floor for data services.”
It added, “For the avoidance of doubt a small operator is one that has less than 7.5 per cent market share and a new entrant is an operator that has operated less than three years in the market.
“All operators are to ensure that subscribers are not automatically migrated to pay-as-you-go platform.
In September, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) confirmed that internet penetration in Nigeria has gone up from 10% to 14% in 2 years and were optimistic that it will reach 30% by 2018. But there is no way that is looking feasible with an increase in the cost of data.
On the other hand, the increase violates the first point in the 8-point agenda provided by Professor Umar Danbatta for the moving forward of the communication industry. The agenda which is to: Provide and optimize access to and use of affordable fixed and mobile broadband everywhere in Nigeria. And also to facilitate and support availability of broadband services by promoting deployment of universally available, fast and reliable network infrastructure that will stimulate seamless broadband penetration to drive technology innovations and overall productivity of the economy.”
Following the development, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) called on the Federal Government not to increase the cost of data to avoid further pressure on mobile telephone users. Bobboi Kaigama, the President of the congress made the call in a statement in Lagos.
Kaigama said that the decision of government to jerk up the cost of data could increase insecurity, adding that “it is unacceptable’’.
Kaigama said that the increase in rate would further frustrate the people who were already burdened by high cost of goods and services.
“We feel worried about the move because data is one of the cheapest ways to empower the teaming youth. This move if allowed will make it unaffordable. This is insensitive on the part of the parties involved,” the TUC President said.
He further said that government should increase awareness for citizens’ participation in Information Communication Technology (ICT) rather than dampen their spirit to embrace the technology.
According to him, the decision if implemented will obstruct the drive to increase youth’s participation in ICT.
“What then will be the benefit of the policy to the self-employed who depend on data for their businesses? Cheap internet data is a vehicle to economic development. It is very unfortunate and inhuman to come up with such idea at a period of recession,” he said.
Kaigama said that any call for increase in prices of goods and services at the moment was uncalled for. He therefore urged the government to create policies that would encourage investment and stimulate growth and boost businesses instead.
Though, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has suspended any further action in that direction, the questions analysts are asking is what is next for subscribers? Owing to the fact that Nigeria is known for such thing and later all people will hear is reversal.
The suspension came on the heels of a Senate resolution asking the commission to immediately halt the proposed Internet data tariff hike.
The Senate, following a motion under matters of urgent national importance, raised by the Senate Deputy Leader, Bala N’ Allah, condemned the planned data tariff, asking the NCC to halt the plan forthwith.
The NCC said the decision to suspend its earlier directive to the operators was taken after due consultations with industry stakeholders in view of the general complaints by consumers across the country.
Director of Public Affairs, NCC, Mr Tony Ojobo, said the commission had weighed the matter and consequently asked all operators to maintain the status quo until the conclusion of study to determine retail prices for broadband and data services in Nigeria.
Commenting on this issue to Economic Confindential, a public analyst, Akeem Ogundimu said, “Nigeria senate has dem,onstrtareted a good fate in the repose in them by Nigerians at large. You can’t just wake up in a period like this and you will increase the price of something like data. Let there be due consultations. He added.