From Okwe Obi, Abuja
Condemnations trailed the hike in prices of Digital Satellite Television (DStv) and GOtv subscription packages by MultiChoice.
Venting his spleen at a press briefing in Abuja, the National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), Emmanuel Onwubiko, urged the National Assembly to clamp down on the monopoly of the South African firm.
Onwubiko said MultiChoice was obstinate for refusing to charge Nigerians per view as it is done all over the globe including in South Africa, the parent country of digital television.
He urged the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, and concerned government agencies including the National Broadcasting Commission to compel MultiChoice to charge Nigerians per view or wield its big stick on the company for compliance failure.
He further alleged that MultiChoice has been operating in Nigeria for about three decades and ‘clandestinely conniving with security agents including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to witch hunt indigenous Nigerian competitors who dare attempt to break the monopoly of MultiChoice.’
According to him, ‘the arrest of eight officials of pay television operators, Communication Trends Limited, JAO TV and Worldlink by the EFCC in November 2019 was still fresh in mind and is alleged to be connected to this sinister will to dominate the Nigerian Market by this South African entity.
‘The EFCC had allegedly wrongfully arrested the operators over the alleged broadcast of the English Premier League matches and other content on their network, saying MultiChoice Nigeria acquired the rights to broadcast the content, a claim that later turned out to be reportedly false, according to sources aware of the entire scenarios.’
Onwubiko posited that ‘the recent hike in prices of Multichoice’s DStv and GOtv packages in Nigeria is outrageous and should be reversed with immediate alacrity before the April 1, 2022 commencement date for the new price regime.
‘It is no longer news that Multichoice has consistently exploited billions of dollars from Nigerians in the last three decades since its operations in Nigeria in 1993. And the company has constantly had altercations with the accredited tax collection entity over issues around meeting their obligations to Nigeria.
‘The South African company has also used unfair competitive strategies to force indigenous Nigerian competitors to close shop. The case of cable television firm, Telecomm Satellite TV, is still fresh in my mind.
‘The Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director, TStv Africa, Bright Echefu, had reportedly said that the company which announced the commencement of its operations on November 1, 2017, faced severe battle from other operators in the industry.
‘The company is nowhere to be found now because of MultiChoice’s unfair tactics,’ HURIWA alleges.
‘Also, MultiChoice has been allegedly colluding with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to arrest workers of indigenous Nigerian competitors including the officials of arrested Communication Trends Limited.
‘This must be stopped. We call on the relevant committees of the two chambers of the National Assembly to quickly investigate these damaging allegations to ascertain the veracity or otherwise of the body of allegations.
‘Indeed, we implore both the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, and the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila, to take interest in stopping these alleged unfair trade practices by MultiChoice and to liberalise the market for pay television operators to motivate indigenous Nigerian businesses to thrive.
‘Why is it that only DStv currently broadcasts major football competitions in Nigeria, especially the English Premier League? Why hasn’t the Federal Government ended the monopoly enjoyed by MultiChoice despite the many rhetorics of the government to protect indigenous Nigerian businesses?
‘It is worrisome that though the government said it had amended Nigeria’s broadcasting code to prevent DStv and others from monopolising their channels and contents, the ugly trend still persists.
‘In June 2020, the House of Representatives had said it was probing DStv for allegedly cheating its Nigerian subscribers by restricting them to prepaid plans and increasing its subscription rates despite the lockdown but nothing came out of the investigation as Nigerians are still being outrageously exploited.
‘Even StarTimes, the cable arm of the Nigerian Television Authority, has been stifled due to MultiChoice’s aggressive monopoly which the government and lawmakers tolerate. This must stop. Nigerians are entitled to jobs and should be allowed to flourish in their own country.’