Isa Pantami, minister of communications, has directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to work with the telecommunications service providers to reduce the price of data.
According to Yusuf Abubakar, an aide of the minister, Pantami, gave the directive to the regulator when he received a report on the implementation of the ministry’s short-term performance targets.
Abubakar said Pantami expressed dismay that despite the high cost of data, Nigerians do not enjoy good internet services.
“According to the report from a UK-based price comparison website – Cable, Nigeria is not among the top 10 African countries with low average price of data, a position the Minister of Communications, Dr Isa Pantami, finds worrisome considering the fact that the country has over 174 million internet users made public by the Nigerian Communications Commission,” Abubakar said in a statement.
“The minister also finds it unacceptable that with the prevailing high cost of data in Nigeria, the citizens still do not enjoy value for money as subscribers battle daily with illegal deduction of data, poor quality of service, among others.
“It is against this backdrop that the minister directed the NCC, the telecom regulators, to immediately work hand in hand with the telecom operators and ensure a downward review of the price of data in Nigeria, improved quality of service provided and check the illegal deduction of subscribers’ data.”
On Sunday, some telecommunications network service providers sent notices to their customers of their new charge for the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD). Banking services were introduced on USSD channels to ensure easier access to services.
“Please note that from Oct 21, we will charge N4 per 20 seconds for USSD access to banking services. Thank you,” a notification sent by MTN to customers read.
But the minister quickly ordered its immediate suspension. The Central Bank of Nigeria ( CBN ) equally asked banks to reject telecos whose USSD transactions come at inflated costs.
Reacting to the development, the President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, in a telephone interview said:
“ Look, the issue around USSD, SMS and MMS and other data type services that are being used on the mobile network operator network is obviously regulated by NCC. And the Commission ensures that the prices charged for the services are supported by its studies. Now, recent studies suggests that the whole financial ecosystem is utilising the USSD codes for numerous financial banking services.
The intention of the USSD code wasn’t meant to be used in this manner. It was meant to be used for supplementary services that the telcos would render to its subscribers for free. I think it was Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that mandated the banks to start charging a certain fee for the USSD and this obviously prompted the telcos to act to ensure that that their platform is being used fairly. And what we mean by that, other sectors that use the USSD code do not charge their clients.” Hence, the banking sector is using the same platform and charging their customers.