By Prince Osuagwu
THE three operators, MTN, Airtel and Globacom affected by the Nigerian Communications Commission’s hammer penultimate week, over poor quality of services, may have paid the penalty in agony.
The operators believed that payment of the penalty was just a likelihood of a student obeying the teacher rather than a sound evaluation of what and who went wrong. The operators still believe that the principle behind the fine was faulty but had no better option at the moment than to comply.
Information from NCC at the weekend indicated that the three operators paid the fine before the close of work last Friday. The commission had imposed on Airtel Nigeria and MTN Nigeria, a fine of N185 Million each while Globacom was liable to the tune of N277, 500.
The Head media and Public Relations of NCC, Mr Reuben Muoka who spoke to Vanguard on telephone, Saturday, confirmed that the operators had actually paid their respective fines before close of work on Friday, adding that they (the operators) have done the honorable thing, knowing that the NCC was not out to hound anybody.
He however, said that other conditions, including the ban on sales promotions and sales of SIM cards, still stand till the end of March. He gave the indication that there may still be an extension of these bans if it was discovered that their services did not improve by March ending.
Payment in agony: Meanwhile, Chairman of the operators’ umbrella body, the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria, ALTON, Engr Gbenga Adebayo, told Hi-Tech that even though he was not in a position to confirm whether the three operators have paid or not, he was aware that when the issue came up for discussion in one of their meetings, the affected operators did not object to paying the fine.
He however added that “I will not be surprised if the operators have paid because when we discussed it in one of our meetings, the operators did not object to pay. However, it does not remove from the fact that the fine is in bad taste. The operators are paying in agony. The NCC is fighting the industry it is regulating. They know what we are going through. The fine is more punitive than corrective when it should be the other way round, if it wants growth of industry.
“Who are the beneficiaries of the penalty? Is it not supposed to be the subscribers? Are they getting the benefit? If the beneficiaries of a fine don’t get it, there is something wrong with the penalty.
So our position is that the principles behind it, is wrong. Administration of sanction is a last resort. The way it is issued arbitrarily here, will scare the investors away.
The operators, regulators and the subscribers sides should be explored before sanctions are imposed. But NCC has not been seen to have these three tiers of the business in consideration” he added.
We’ll go to court: Also, the President of National Association of Telecom subscribers in Nigeria, NATCOMS, Chief Deolu Ogubanjo who had earlier challenged the commission on the fine, says his association would go to court again. This time around, Ogubanjo said that he would challenge both the operators and the commission on why the payment should be made or received.
He said: “Our case with NCC has been on since 2012 on why the commission should impose a fine on behalf of subscribers and the subscribers would not benefit from it.
That has not been determined, we are saying that operators must not pay and the NCC must not receive the current fine, pending the determination of the suit. But if actually, the operators have paid this current fine, we are going to challenge both the operators why they must pay and the NCC why it must receive. They will surely hear from us pretty soon” he added.
The NCC had in a semblance of the biblical Ten Commandments, penultimate week, handed three Nigeria operators, MTN Nigeria, Globacom and Airtel Nigeria, seven strict instructions that must not be violated following their detoriating network quality in January 2014.
The seven laws followed a sledge hammer of N647 million sanctions which must be met before March 7, 2014. The fine according to Muoka was specifically for failing to meet the Key Performance Indicators, KPIs, for quality of service in the month of January 2014.
For that, the commission also demanded that the affected operators must not roll out sales promotions or sell SIM cards, in the whole of March 2014, pending when their services will improve. Conveying its disappointment over the operators’ service quality, the commission issued seven strict instructions with a stern warning that they will be implemented to the least option.
Instruction one says that “payment of the fines shall be on or before March 7, 2014”. The second commandment warns about defiance to the first law: “Failure to settle the said amount within the stipulated period, the operators shall continue to be liable to pay the sum of N2, 500,000 (Two Million, Five Hundred Thousand Naira Only) per day for as long as the contravention persist”.
The third commandment mandates the operators “to stop the sale of new SIM Cards throughout the month of March 2014, with effect from March 1 to 31, 2014”
However, the commission did not rule out the possibility of the operators trying to adopt quick measures which may not favour the operators and so ruled in the fourth commandment that “the Service Providers shall not churn or delete inactive or none revenue generating SIMs from their networks during the period of March 1 to 31, 2014”