Senate summons minister, NCC boss over tariff increase

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ABUJA, NOVEMBER 30, 2016 – The Senate Wednesday invited the Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) Executive Vice Chairman, Professor Umar Danbatta and Chief Executives of network service providers to appear before its Committee on Communications to explain reasons behind the decision to increase data tari

The upper chamber also directed the network service providers to put on hold the plan to commence implementation of the new tariffs today.

The Senate asked its Committee on Communications to begin immediate comprehensive investigation into the matter.

The plan by the service provided to increase data tariff has generated controversies across the country.

The Committee was given one week to report back to the Senate in plenary.

The resolutions followed a motion by Deputy Senate Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, (Kebbi South) in which he condemned the planned hike in data tariffs.

Na’Allah said that there was no doubt the hike would further impoverish Nigerians.

Vice Chairman of the Committee on Communications, Senator Solomon Adeola (Lagos West), described the policy as not only ‘unholy’ but also ‘unfriendly’.

Adeola assured the Senate that the committee would act on the mandate and report back to it next Tuesday.

He said, “We are up to the task. And I can assure the Senate that we will swing into action immediately. We will invite all the necessary agencies that are involved in this policy that is unholy and unfriendly and get back to the Senate unfailingly on Tuesday.”

Senate President Bukola Saraki in his remarks said that the NCC of failed to carry out enough consultations before announcing the policy.

Saraki asked the committee to investigate allegations of non-compliance with laid down regulations by telecoms operators.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Gilbert Nnaji, in a statement entitled “Data tariff increase by Nigerian telecom operators’ said “The attention of the Senate Committee on Communications has been drawn to the threat by the telecommunication service providers to upwardly review the data tariff in the country.

“Even though it has been roundly condemned I wish to reiterate our position that as the elected representatives of the Nigerian masses, we shall vehemently resist any attempt to short-change the people or further impoverish them under any guise and also warn that culprits shall be decisively dealt with.

“It is as wicked as it is irrational for anybody or institution to contemplate any policy that would inflict shock and unnecessary disruptions on the citizens who are already going through difficult times.

“For the umpteenth time, this type of harsh treatment is certainly not what the people bargained for while queuing under the sun to get us to this place of higher responsibilities. Despite the global economic downturn and perhaps federal government’s efforts at getting the country out of recession, every action or decision should be guided by the urgent need to guarantee the welfare and well-being of the citizenry rather than tending to worsen the prevailing pains in the land.

“As a committee however, we have initiated some necessary legislative interventions towards protecting our people from any form of extortion or exposure to avoidable crises by the network providers.

“Therefore I am by this calling on the relevant industry operators to suspend whatever actions geared towards data tariff increase and while appealing for calm on the part of our good people.”

NCC had in a letter addressed to telecoms operators on November 1, 2016, put the interim floor price for data services at 0.90k/MB for big operators, adding that “this rate will subsist pending the finalisation of the study on the determination of cost based pricing for retail broadband and data services in Nigeria.”

The letter added: “In order to provide a level playing field for all operators in the industry, small operators and new entrants to acquire market share and operate profitably, small operators and new entrants are hereby exempted for the price floor for data services.

“For the avoidance of doubt, a small operator is one that has less than 7.5 percent market share and a new entrant is an operator that has operated less than three years in the market. All operators are to ensure that subscribers are not automatically migrated to pay-as-you-go platform. Also, note that effective date for the interim price floor is December 1, 2016.”

Acting on this directive, MTN sent text messages to its customers on Monday, announcing the hike in its data tariffs beginning today. “Dear customer, please be informed that from December 1, some MTN data tariffs will be increased to reflect the new rates set by the NCC to operators‎,”‎ MTN stated.

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