The Nigeria Communications Commission, NCC, has fined four major mobile phone carriers penalties totaling N1.17 billion over poor service in the nation, a spokesman of the NCC said on Sunday.
Bharti Airtel Ltd of India, Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat, Nigerian-owned Globacom Ltd. and South Africa-based MTN Group Ltd., the major cellphone service providers in Africa’s most populous nation are on the receiving end of the penalties.
According to the Associated Press report, both MTN and Etisalat are expected to pay N360 million each, while Airtel is expected to pay N270 million and Globacom is faced with a fine of N180 million.The commission, in a statement issued on Saturday said it gave the companies the months of January and February as a grace period, within which it must improve on poor service. As they failed to do so, Reuben Muoka, the commission’s spokesman said the four telecoms giant are facing the steep fines due to poor cell phone service provided during the months of March and April.
Airtel, Etisalat, MTN and Glo are expected to pay up the fines by May 21 or face further penalties of N2.5 million daily, according to the Vanguard.
“The current penalties signal a new regime of quality of service management in the Nigerian telecommunications industry,” the commission said.
With the nation’s state-run telephone company, NITEL, long dead and several attempts to privatize the company has failed, a majority of Nigeria’s 160 million strong population rely on mobile phones for communication.
However, many carriers have proven so poor that the average Nigerian, if they can afford it, have several phones with different providers to assure that they are able to communicate.
In a swift reaction to the news, South Africa-based MTN on Friday defended its service, saying inadequate power supply, insecurity and multiple regulation and taxation makes it harder for the telecoms company to provide excellent service.
MTN’s Corporate Services Executive, Mr. Akinwale Goodluck, in an interview with Vanguard said “MTN suffers more than seventy cuts to its fibre on a monthly basis. Indeed , in April this year, MTN had cause to publish full page announcement in the newspapers, alerting the public to the growing incidence of criminal damage to MTN’s infrastructure in various parts of the country and the impact on quality of service.”
Goodluck further appealed to the NCC to assist the industry in overcoming the difficulties and challenges he highlighted , adding “it is our desire that our customers are happy with us or else we do not have a business”.
Abu-Dhabi based Etisalat also listed similar complaints. They said the capacity constraints alone were not to blame for poor service, but also pointed to bad road networks, sabotage and epileptic electricity supply as some of the challenges Etisalat faces.
“Foremost among these is the absence of reliable power which necessitates that every one of our over 3,000 cell sites needs to be served by two generators which run 24 hours a day and need regular maintenance and provision of weekly supplies of diesel,” Chief Executive Steven Evans said.