Don't Miss

Poor telecoms service persists despite N.18bn fines

By on September 24, 2014

Nigerians have x-rayed activities of telecommunications companies operating in the country, saying they have failed to provide quality service despite having paid over N1.8bn fine in the last two years for poor service quality.

Those who spoke with The PUNCH said even with the over N1.8bn fines imposed on the telecoms companies between 2012 and 2014, the already poor service quality had been dropping by the day and may worsen should things remain the same.

They said the telcos’ service had failed to meet the minimum standard, including the Key Performance Indicators, and should quit for other investors to come in.

Some of them accused the telecoms firms of consistent contravention of the provisions of the Quality of Service Regulation by the regulatory body – Nigerian Communications Commission.

It will be recalled that the NCC had in May 2012 asked MTN and Etisalat to pay N360m each, while Airtel and Globacom attracted a penalty of N270m and N180m respectively, totalling N1.17bn.

For contravening the ban on promotions and lotteries on their respective networks, the NCC also slammed a total of N22m fine on all the four Global System for Mobile operators in 2013.

The NCC yet again slammed a total fine of N647.5m on the operators in February 2014 for failing to meet the KPIs for quality of service in the month of January that year.

However, the President of Nigeria Internet Governance Forum, Mr. Bayo Banjo, said the quality of service would keep falling, “and may remain like that for the rest of our lives because the fines imposed by the NCC were too meagre to awaken the telecoms firms.”

He said, “For instance, if you fine a telecoms company N50m, what it would simply do is to smartly deduct N10 from the credit unit of five million subscribers and it would raise funds to pay the fine.

“The subscribers won’t even know that N10 or so was deducted from their recharge unit. Therefore, paying fines has become a treasure to these firms and they will not mind paying as long as they rake in billions of naira every year at the expense of Nigerians.”

Banjo accused the leadership of the NCC of lacking the drive to change the trend, saying, “Otherwise why can’t they impose serious financial sanctions or fines that will run into several billions of money.”

The NIGF president added that the NCC should come up with policies, like what is obtainable in the banks, “which will seek the removal from office of the chief executive officers and other top management employees of defaulting telcos.”

The NCC Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo, did not react to the matter, as he did not take telephone calls from our correspondent. Ojobo did not also respond to a text message sent to his phone.

The commission’s Head, Media and Public Relations, Mr. Reuben Muoka, could not be reached and did not reply text messages sent to his telephone.

When approached, the President, Association of Telecoms Company of Nigeria, Mr. Lanre Ajayi, blamed the NCC for the dwindling quality of service of the telcos.

Ajayi said the imposition of “unnecessary” fines had prevented the telecoms operators from tackling challenges in the sector that would ensure a flawless service.

“Funds that should be used by the telcos to tackle issues of delay in the issuance of Right of Way in rolling out fibre and other infrastructure are spent on paying fines, so how then do you expect them to fix the quality of service,” he said.

The ATCON president said government was aware of the challenges, “and is working on it.” He, however, added, “The telecoms companies are constrained and should not be blamed.”

A chief of the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, did not share Ajayi’s views, saying the fines being paid by the telecoms company were not up to “one per cent” of their entire profits.

Okechukwu, who said he had been monitoring the activities of the telcos for about 10 years, stated that the telecoms companies made “multiple billions of naira in Nigeria, enough to change the tide if they really want to.”

He said, “When you pay a fine of N360m, how will it affect you from getting your RoW and rolling out your fibre to ensure a better QoS. It is just not possible, because N360m is just a very small fraction of about N900bn one telecoms firm makes in this country.”

MTN’s Public Relations and Protocol Manager, Mr. Funso Aina, corroborates the APC stalwart when he said MTN Nigeria had continued to invest “aggressively” (approximately $1.5bn year on year) in order to increase capacity, but he stated that demand had continued to outstrip supply.

Aina agreed there had been poor service quality recently, but said this was largely due to capacity constraints in the industry.

“The increasing demand for telecommunications services has been driven by the sharp decline in tariffs over the last three years, thereby stimulating increasing minutes of usage and activity on the networks by a growing number of people,” he said.

The MTN PR manager said all of the above “were exacerbated by underlying environmental challenges,” which, he said, had remained unresolved.

“This is in spite of best efforts by the industry and the relevant critical stakeholders, power supply challenges, vandalism and theft of network infrastructure, insecurity in certain parts of the country, multiple taxation and over regulation leading to interference with critical network infrastructure by unauthorised persons and disruption to services,” he added. “

The Public Relations Manager at Etisalat, Chineze Amanfo, simply said, “We take quality of service seriously and as such, work tirelessly to ensure this is maintained across the country.”