The Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, on Tuesday asked the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecom industry regulator, to consider the possibility of reducing data cost for millions of Nigerian telecom subscribers amid growing complaints by them on extortion by service providers.
The minister gave the charge when the management of the commission, led by the board chairman, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, visited his office must work out modalities to reduce the price of data in the interest of Nigerians.
He told the team that in recent times, his office had been inundated with complaints from subscribers, who ostensibly are the receiving end of the current data pricing regime in the industry.
Patanmi urged the commission to work out the modalities with other stakeholders in the industry in the next five working days with a view to coming out with a better pricing template that would alleviate the burdens of subscribers..
He said: “I am urging the management of NCC to work towards reducing the price of data in Nigeria. It is too costly and people are complaining every day. If you go to other countries, even countries that are not as largely populated as Nigeria, data prices are not this high.
“I am also a victim of some of the infractions that are so common in the industry. You load your data, but you barely used 20 percent of it and the entire data is wiped off”, the minister recounted.
It would be recalled that apart from the complaints over prohibitive data cost that the telecom operators had planned to impose unilaterally another charge of N4 per 20 seconds on USSD access to banking services but for the quick intervention of the minister.
Reacting to the development, the Minister, through a statement signed his media aide, Uwa Suleiman, stated that he was not aware of the service charge and directed the NCC to ensure that telcom operators suspend the plans until he is is properly briefed.
The statement reads: “The attention of the Federal Ministry of Communications has been drawn to the viral text message allegedly sent by the Mobile Network Operator MTN Nigeria and other Mobile Operators notifying subscribers of a four naira (N4:00) charge per 20 seconds on USSD access to banking services from the 21st of October 2019.
“The office of the Honourable Minister of Communications Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami FNCS, FBCS, FIIM is unaware of this development and has hereby directed the sector regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) ensures the operator suspends such plans until the Honourable Minister is fully and properly briefed”, Suleiman added
Nigerians commended the minister for ensuring the suspension of the USSD service charge.