Ministers task DStv, MTN, others to offer free subscription, airtime, data to Nigerians

Some ministers of the Federal Government has urged DStv, Startimes, MTN, Airtel and other network providers to offer free services to Nigerians affected by the lockdown.

The request was made by the Minister of State, Labour & Employment, Festus Keyamo and the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami.

Keyamo stated that Cable TV operators should suspend charging Nigerians for new subscriptions for one month as part of their contribution to ease the economic impact of the lockdown on workers in the country.

He made the recommendation via his Twitter handle, stating, “As one of the Ministers entrusted with the welfare of Nigerian workers, I politely urge @DStvNg & @StarTimes_Ng to extend all EXISTING subscriptions by at least one month, free-of-charge, as their own contribution to ease the pains of Nigerian workers at this time of lockdown.”

Subscriptions for DStv and Startimes in Nigeria are renewed monthly, and with the next month (April) starting tomorrow, attention will be on the cable operators to see if Keyamo’s recommendation was considered or ignored.

Keyamo also implored the network providers to top-up the airtime and data of their subscribers. In Nigeria, MTN has over 50 million subscribers, Airtel accounts for 38 million, Glo boasts of 29 million while 9mobile has about 7 million.

Burden of airtime and data cost: In order to ease the lockdown, Keyamo said, “I would also urge @MTNNG @9mobileng @AirtelNigeria @GloWorld to consider giving Nigerians some token airtime & data to ease their pains & to ensure that communication with individuals & authorities is ensured in cases of emergencies, especially when toll-free numbers are busy.”

The Minister of Communication, Pantami also called for data cut, stating that the operators should subsidise and relax call and data cost.

Is it possible for these operators? This is not the first time the Nigerian government would urge telcos and cable tv operators like DStv to cut the cost of their subscriptions and data. This situation is, however, different, as workers and businesses are being affected economically.

The economic impact isn’t only affecting Nigerian workers, as the Coronavirus breakout is global. So if these operators are to offer free services to their subscribers in Nigeria, they will have to do the same for other countries also experiencing lockdown.

If this is done, the companies might find themselves in a difficult financial situation that might affect salary payment to their staff. For a company like Vodafone, which recently announced free data for 30 days, the offer was limited to half a million of its ‘pay monthly customers’ and those with declared disabilities or mental health issues.

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