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Telecoms: Consumers kick as mobile network operators push for calls, data price hikes

Nigerian Telecoms Service Consumers

*Scores of Nigerian telecoms service subscribers express displeasure over the recent moves by the Mobile Network Operators to introduce new tariffs regime for calls, data, and other telecoms services in the ecosystem

*The Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria argues the Telecoms is the only sector that has ‘not experienced a pricing regulatory framework review’

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

Nigerian telecoms service subscribers have expressed their displeasure over the recent moves by the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to introduce new tariffs regime for calls, data, and other telecoms services in the ecosystem.

The subscribers’ association, under the aegis of the National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS), have reacted to a recent move by Telcos.

Chief Adeolu Ogunbanjo, President of National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS), recently stated that raising the tariffs would not solve the problem that they (Telcos) were trying to mitigate against in the economy.

Recall that the Telcos recently affirmed that Nigerian telecoms consumers might soon be paying different prices in different states for calls, data, SMS, as a measure to mitigate against multiple taxation and business environments across different states.

Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), reportedly said that a national tariff was no longer appropriate because the cost of providing telecoms services varied across the states of the Federation.

Adebayo also noted that the Telcos had presented their plan to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and would implement it once given approval in this regard.

Ogunbanjo, however, said that telecoms subscribers would kick against any attempt by Telcos to introduce state tariffs.

“We are not going to agree to that. We should be fighting the cankerworm (multiple taxation together), not this. Why do they want to add to our (subscribers) burden?”

He also noted that subscribers were also fighting against multiple taxation by the government, and were presently in court to ensure that the Federal Government, by an act of parliament, strikes out a provision of the Finance Act that empowers the government to place excise duty on telecom services.

Any President could still implement the provision of the law despite the present waiver granted to telecoms services by this current administration.

It is noted that the Telcos have been clamouring for an increase in tariff to cushion the effects of an economic downturn, multiple taxations, high operating costs, and more in recent times.

In 2022, they pushed for a 40 percent hike in tariff, according to report.

Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), in a Keynote Address at a recent event in Abuja, disclosed that there were about 46 different taxes directed at the telecommmunications sector and how taxation could could affect the sector in the country’s economy.

Telcos seek House of Reps’ intervention on tariff hikes, operational bottlenecks

Meanwhile, the telecommunications operators have taken their clamour to raise call tariffs and data prices to the House of Representatives, in Abuja.

The MNOs have implored the lawmakers to approve tariff increase, cut multiple taxes, arguing that the cost of doing business in the country had risen sharply in recent months, negatively impacting their businesses.

It was learnt that ATCON again, sought the approval at a meeting held at the weekend with the House Committee on Communications, led by Peter Akpatason, Chairman of the Committee and Engr. Adebayo, Chairman of the Association.

The Telcos were said to have enumerated their major areas of concerns, including refusal of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) to grant build permit for infrastructure roll-out to service providers in Abuja; non-passage of the Critical National Information Infrastructure Bill into law; multiple taxation; and non-review of pricing regulatory framework, among others.

According to ALTON, the provision of telecoms service in Abuja has been hampered by the refusal of FCDA and Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) to permit members to build sites.

Adebayo said despite concerted engagement, FCDA has insisted that due to the need to maintain the Abuja Master Plan, it would not grant approval to telecoms operators to build new sites.

How noted that telecoms services still depend on terrestrial infrastructure, and without these, quality of service (QoS) cannot be guaranteed in the digital ecosystem in the country.

“In view of the huge investment towards deployment of telecoms infrastructure in the FCT, our members are indeed concerned about this development, given its significant impact on their ability to meet regulatory obligations and consumer expectations.

“Given its position as the seat of government and host to several key functionalities of government, with an ever-increasing population, our members have been unable to match infrastructure deployment with growth patterns and on-ground requirements of the FCT,” Adebayo stated.

He further explained “this is evidenced by unsatisfactory service reception within locations in the FCT, resulting in dropped calls and complaints of unsatisfactory service experience.”

Adebayo also contended that other highly regulated sectors, such as power and insurance, have implemented price increases over the last year.

Insurance prices, he stated, have risen 200 percent, with power hiking prices by over 40 percent.

The ATCON Chief said that telecommunications is the only sector that has not experienced a pricing regulatory framework review, notwithstanding local and global macroeconomic realities.

Adebayo pleaded for reduction in about 49 different taxes imposed on the industry, saying, “the impact of increase in diesel cost is dire for telecommunications operations, particularly for our members in the collocation segment.

“The 300 percent increase in diesel cost, which was implemented at the beginning of the year, humongous indebtedness in the industry, lack of access to and increased rate of foreign exchange to service their operations, dire levels of insecurity across the country with increased theft and damage to our members’ sites, have all prevented members from running their business efficiently and profitably.”

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