Benjamin Babine, Abuja
Nigerians have called on the Federal Government to order telecommunication companies to reduce data rates in this period of the COVID-19 lockdown.
They made their positions known through social media platforms – Twitter, Instagram and others. This is in reaction to President Muhammadu Buhari’s executive order to lockdown Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states for the next two weeks due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which has seen 131 cases across the country, with Abuja and Lagos being the epicentres in the North and South, respectively.
Many Nigerian Twitter users have used the platform to lament the heavy burden of having to subscribe for mobile data while they are no working and earning money during the 14-day lockdown. A number of people clamoured for telcos to cut their data prices during this period rather than donate money.
We're suffering a lot, some people doesn't have food to eat right now, some are having issue with electricity which not stable in some places and also data prices which is expensive to some of us. Please @MTNNG @AirtelNigeria @9mobileng @GloWorld #CutDataPrices #CutDataPrice
— A B D U R R A H M A N (@an_chindo) March 30, 2020
@DrOlufunmilayo kindly retweet
Dear @GloWorld @AirtelNigeria @MTNNG @9mobileng
we also need help in other ways asides money donation, Data price reductions will go a long way to empower people and stay connected during this period. #Covid19Out #CutDownDataPrice #cutdataprice pic.twitter.com/PjFr9piZ0V
— Tomiwa Laleye (@tonyprenda) March 30, 2020
It's quite strange that Nigerians pay so much for basic services, yet at a time like this, the service providers are very quiet.
— Creative™ (@oneusualsuspect) March 30, 2020
Daily Sun reached out to the President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr Teniola Olusola, and he spoke extensively on the topic.
Mr Olusola said: “As you know, the COVID-19 has created a general change in behaviour in the way and manner we are interacting with each other, especially because there is no cure or vaccination for this virus. So with the calls of several governments around the world including our own to impose a lockdown, it means that the only way to entertain and communicate is to make use of digital technology. This digital technology is founded on the assumption that infrastructure exists.
“In other jurisdictions where infrastructure exists, they are able to have deep competition to ensure that different offers and options are available in terms of the usage of data. In Nigeria, we do not have that level of infrastructure to support the various options that other citizens around the world are taking for granted.”
Speaking about what ATCON is doing about the situation, he said: “As the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), we are very aware that this episode is unique and I will refer to some of the approaches that some of our members who have operations in other countries in Africa are doing in terms of reviewing their data prices downward. I don’t want to mention names but already we have one operator that has reduced it’s data prices and consumers will be wise to shop around. And I believe that other operators including internet service providers will also follow suit.
“What is also important to note is that, when one uses data, the applications that one uses has a determinant on the amount of data that is depleted in your bundle. So, it is very important during this period of the lockdown, over the next two weeks, especially in those states that are affected, that usage of high consuming applications should be adjusted and adapted to ensure that data used is efficient and not wasted.”