Why Nigeria’s Data woes may not end soon

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is yet to act on the directive given by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami on reduction of data cost for over two months now, as reported by The Nation.

Recall that Pantami had directed the NCC to address the issue of frequent data depletion and overpriced data subscriptions often perpetrated by service providers.

He also set Key Performance Indicator (KPI) targets for Chief Executive Officers under the ministry and promised to sanction them if they failed to deliver on his biddings. He had mentioned these issues since August this year and re-issued the directive in November but nothing has been done to address it.

Why action has not been taken: A source in the NCC explained why action has not been taken regarding the matter. The source explained that adhering to the Minister’s directive would be tantamount to breaching the law. In fact, the source noted that the NCC has no power whatsoever to determine the price of data for consumers under Section 108-110 of the Nigerian Communications Act.

The law does not give the NCC that power. What the law allows the Commission to do is to ensure that tariffs reflect costs of providing services. That is why NCC is mandated to carry out cost-based studies from time to time and as may be deemed fit to fix prices for floors and for ceilings. That way, no operator can under-price to kill its competitors,” the source explained.

Choosing to defend the telcos, Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo said quick depletion of data was not the fault of the service providers but the fault of smartphones used by subscribers to access data services.

In his defence, he stated that the telcos did not receive such directive despite the continuous re-issuance of the same directive by the Minister at press briefings. Gbenga explained that data pricing is a battle of market forces. He also advised smartphone users to closely check what kind of applications that exhaust their data continually.

Bottom line: There is no end in sight for the average Nigerian on the issue of frequent data depletion and overpriced data subscriptions. Even though a report from a UK-based price comparison website — Cable, showed that Nigerian telecom companies supposedly offer some of the cheapest mobile data subscription rates in Africa with an average price of $2.22 for 1 Gigabyte (GB), it is still not affordable for many in a country where 94 million people live on less than $1.90 a day.

Pantami has bitterly complained about this issue in his recent directives. He noted that issue was worrisome, and he was directly affected by the quick data depletion on his MTN line.

As it is today, people are complaining and it happens to me. I recharge my phone (my data line) and I believe what I use is not up to 20 per cent of what I purchase. This is an issue that is very important,” he stated.

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