The Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) has raised hope that the Critical Infrastructure Bill seeking to protect telecoms and allied systems across the country will soon become law.
Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Professor Umar Danbatta who dropped this hint at the 78th edition of Telecom Consumer Parliament (TCP) reckons that passage of the Bill is not only critical in addressing the issue of vandalisation and theft but also to safeguard telecoms infrastructures across the country.
Speaking at the event with theme “Regulatory Responses to Consumer issues over The Last One Year-A Retrospect”, the telecoms industry regulator reckons that the passage of the Bill will see telecoms infrastructures declared as national assets and would be so protected nationwide.
Danbatta, who was represented by Engr. Ubale Maska, the Executive Commissioner, Technical Services at NCC told the forum that “there is vandalisation as an issue and to curtail this problem, the commission is tirelessly working to ensure the passage of the Critical Infrastructure Bill at the National Assembly so that telecoms infrastructures will be declared as national assets.”
Telecoms Consumer Parliament (TCP) is a platform where stakeholders are engaged in an interactive session that provides a unique opportunity for consumers of telecom services to be informed and educated on burning issues in the industry and to also freely express their views, grievances and expectations in the presence of the service providers and the regulator.
“In fulfillment of its mandate as described by the Nigerian Communication Act of 2003, the NCC while taking cognisance of the challenges that came along with the growth of the industry has consistently strived to ensure that Nigerians have access to quality telecommunications services at affordable prices,” the telecoms boss says.
While noting that the industry’s challenges over the years have remained that of provision of acceptable quality service on a consistent basis, Prof. Danbatta listed multiple taxation, right of way issues and security challenges at base stations as the other non-technical factors that affect the quality of services consumers receive, in addition to telecom infrastructure vandalism.
To resolve these challenges, the EVC says the Commission has adopted a pragmatic approach and one of the platforms used by the Commission now is the engagement of the Governors Forum through outreaches.
“Some of you would recall that recently Ogun State Governor, His Excellency Ibikunle Amosun recently ordered the unsealing of 47 base stations that has been under lock and key before my visit to the state,” he says.
Notwithstanding these challenges the Commission has remained resolute and committed to provide regulatory interventions that ensure that network operators adhere to the conditions of their licences and consumers get the best possible quality of experience, he says.
“We are committed to the growth and total transformation of the industry. And in line with the theme of this event, I wish to reiterate that since my assumption of office a year ago my priority is to a stabilized telecoms industry that would efficiently provide good quality of service to consumers,” Danbatta assures.
The presentation of the theme of the event which highlighted some of the Commission’s consumer driven initiatives was done by Ayola Oke, a legal practitioner at NCC.
According to Oke, the major consumer issues that the telecoms regulator looked into in the last one year after series of complaints from consumers include quality of service, unwanted intrusion into service delivery, safety of devices and other network equipment, the desire to have lower prices, bundle service expiration and roll over, operators responsiveness to consumers and right of network choice which is number portability.
On the quality of service, Oke says the Commission has adopted a more cooperative way in dealing with that issue.
“NCC is focusing more on working together with the operators and that is why in the last one year a special working group of stakeholders has been inaugurated so that there would be continuous dialogue between all the various stakeholders on what can be done to guarantee quality of service,” he says.
The theme presenter listed some of the things that have been done to improve quality of service which include supporting of infrastructure development by NCC, ensuring procurement of standard equipment by the operators, and the introduction of the Do Not Disturb 2442 short code to tackle intrusion into service delivery.
NCC has also asked the operators to review their service plan so that it will be compatible with the data roll over; and has reviewed the guideline for SIM replacement to prevent fraudsters from stealing consumers’ SIM.
Also, the Commission says it undertook the following in order to enhance complaint escalation in the last one year: complete redesign of the NCC web portal to make it responsive and consumer friendly, and designation of a short code 622 with response options in the 3 major Nigerian languages.
In addition, the telecoms regulator has made it mandatory for the operators to expand their customer service centers in the second most popular city of every state. On porting, the period consumers have to be on a new network before being eligible to port again has been reduced to 45 days from 90 days.
And on pricing, the Commission has stopped the automatic migration to ‘pay as you go’ data service which depletes consumers’ credit.
The event was well attended by consumers as well as dignitaries which include Mrs. Oluwaseun Kasunmu who represented the First lady of Lagos State; Mr. Joshua Yakubu, representing the DG of Consumer Protection Council (CPC); Ms. Funlola Akiode, Director, Licencing & Authorisation, NCC; Yetunde Akinloye, Head-Legal and Regulatory Services, NCC; Mrs. Florence Onwuegbuchulam, Head-Audit, NCC; Dr. Joseph Atoyebi, Deputy Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau and Mr. Abdullahi Maikano, Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau.