The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, on Wednesday, November 30, announced the immediate suspension of the new minimum pricing template for data services by mobile operators.

The new rate, which would have led to a 200% price increase in data for Nigerians, was scheduled to take effect from December 1.

The commission and the Muhammadu Buhari government have come under intense intense pressure and criticisms following the announcement leading to the call by the Senate during Wednesday’s plenary for the move to be suspended.

In a statement e-mailed to The Trent, Tony Ojobo, spokesperson of the NCC said that the decision to suspend the new “price floor for data” was taken after “due consultation with industry stakeholders” and complaints by “consumers across the country”.

“Following the concerns that visited the directive to introduce price floor for data segment of the telecommunications sector beginning from December 1, 2016, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has suspended any further action in that direction,” the statement said.

“The decision to suspend this directive was taken after due consultation with industry stakeholders and the general complaints by consumers across the country.

“The commission has weighed all of this and consequently asked all operators to maintain the status quo until the conclusion of study to determine retail prices for broadband and data services in Nigeria.

“Recall that the commission wrote to the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) on November 1, 2016 on the determination of an interim price floor for data services after the stakeholder’s consultative meeting of October 19, 2016.

“The decision to have a price floor was primarily to promote a level playing field for all operators in the industry, encourage small operators and new entrants.

“The price floor in 2014 was N3.11k/MB but was removed in 2015. The price floor that was supposed to flag off on December 1, 2016 was N0.90k/MB.

“In taking that decision, the smaller operators were exempted from the new price regime, by virtue of their small market share.

“The decision on the price floor was taken in order to protect the consumers who are at the receiving end and save the smaller operators from predatory services that are likely to suffocate them and push them into extinction.

“The price floor is not an increase in price but a regulatory safeguard put in place by the telecommunications regulator to check anti-competitive practices by dominant operators.

“This statement clarifies the insinuation in some quarters that the regulator has fixed prices for data services. This is not true because the NCC does not fix prices but provides regulatory guidelines to protect the consumers, deepen investments and safeguard the industry from imminent collapse.

“Before the new suspended price floor of N0.90k/MB, the industry average for dominant operators including MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, EMTS Limited (Etisalat) and Airtel Nigeria Limited was N0.53k/MB.
Etisalat offered (N0.94k/MB), Airtel (N0.52k/MB), MTN (N0.45k/MB) and Globacom (N0.21k/MB).

“The smaller operators/ new entrants charge the following: Smile Communications N0.84k/MB, Spectranet N0.58k/MB and NATCOMS (NTEL) N0.72k/MB.

“The NCC as a responsive agency of government takes into consideration the feelings of the consumers and so decided to suspend the new price floor.

Senate Stops NCC’s Irresponsible Plan

The Nigerian Senate has condemned the proposed increase of data tariffs by telecommunications service providers, in line with the directive of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.

Rising from a plenary session on Wednesday, November 30, 2016, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the senate president issued a statement saying that the legislative arm of government stepped in to protect the Nigerian people from the irresponsible plan.

“We strongly believe that we must protect the Nigerian people that sent us to Abuja to represent their interests from the height of the irresponsible plan that has been put forward by the NCC,” Senator Saraki said.

“At a time when the cost of living has gone up for all Nigerians, due to inflation being at 18.3%, the NCC’s actions have implicitly mandated the service providers to increase their costs to maintain their profits. This is unacceptable.

“I have seen the power of the internet — and how it serves to give a voice to the voiceless, and a platform for millions to air their views. This is why the Senate will continue to maintain that access to the internet remains affordable for all Nigerians,” he maintained.

“On this note, the Senate has resolved to: Halt the new tariff proposal by the NCC; Mandate the Senate Committee on Communications to conduct thorough oversight on the process that brought it about,” the statement said.

Saraki promised that the Senate would ensure that Nigerians are “always carried along when such processes are considered”.

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