NCC Wants a Review of its Rules

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The Nigerian Communications Commission is pushing for a review of its rules and regulation by the legislature to enhance its regulatory function to achieve fair competition and improved quality of service by service providers

|  By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Apr. 7, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

THE Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, has mapped out plans to review the existing rules and regulations in the telecommunications industry to accommodate new challenges confronting it. Part of the plan is the forum NCC organised in Lagos recently to acquaint members of the legislature of developments in the industry and the relevant rules and regulations needed to enhance its operations. At the forum, the NCC recommended that the legislative arm of government should review some of the laws to achieve fair competition and ensure a new robust set of rules for the industry that will enhance the quality of service being rendered to consumers.

Ephraim Nwokonneya, head, compliance monitoring, NCC, at the forum, said the Nigerian telecommunications revolution in the last 12 years had brought with it an increase in foreign direct investments, FDI, significant growth in the number of operating companies, massive growth in subscriber population, and an intense competition resulting in innovative tariff plans and promotions. He said the growth had also brought with it quality of service hitches including challenges in the regulatory competence of the commission, among others.

“The current Nigerian telecoms market is at its late growth stage characterised by: quality of service challenges; sub-optimal enforcement of relevant laws, guidelines and regulations; challenges regarding reliability and integrity of data/records from operators; emergence of multiple regulations, multiple taxations, right of way issues, and so on. The commission’s rule base consists of the primary legislation – the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, and the secondary legislations – regulations, directions, and guidelines, among others. These are subsidiary laws developed by the commission by virtue of the powers conferred on it by Section 70 of the NCA 2003. To achieve fair competition and improve consumer quality experience in the industry, the commission is currently reviewing its rule base to ensure a robust set of rules for the industry,” he said.

According to Nwokonneya, the NCC is currently engaging legislators in the Senate and House of Representatives on the issue. Addressing the audience, Eugene Juwah, executive vice-chairman of the commission, said the NCC would continue to acquaint and keep the members of the National Assembly abreast of existing and emerging legal issues in telecommunications because the legislature had a fundamental role to play in the success or otherwise of the industry. He said although the NCA was forward looking in providing a legal framework for the industry, some other laws such as those on cybercrime and data protection, which will positively support telecoms activities in the country, were still pending at the National Assembly. “A law establishing ICT infrastructure as a critical national infrastructure is also essential,” Juwah said.

In another development, the NCC has said that the three telecommunication firms that were fined N647.5 million over poor services have paid. Reuben Muoka, head, media and public relations, NCC, confirmed this in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja. Muoka gave the names of the affected companies as MTN, Airtel and Globacom Nigeria.

He said the firms were fined by the commission due to the poor services they provided between July 2013 and January 2014. He said the details of the sanction showed that Airtel Network Limited and MTN Nigeria Communications Limited were fined N185 million each, while Globacom Limited paid N277,500. Muoka said that the operators were able to pay up before March 7, adding that their failure would had made them liable to pay N2,500,000 per day as long as the contravention persisted.

The NCC also disclosed that the commission could not make any cash transfer to subscribers of telecommunications service as a result of the recent sanctions, which compelled telecom operators to pay N647 million due to its poor quality services, because the Act setting up the NCC does not empower it to do so. Juwah, who spoke at the NCC Day, at the Abuja Centenary Trade Fair, exhibition organised by the Abuja Chambers of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture, ABUCCIMA, said the Act establishing the commission does not empower it to refund penalty fees to subscribers or consumers who felt cheated over poor services.

“There is nothing in our law that empowers NCC to share money, which is paid as penalty. It is just like someone who is fined by a court of law. They don’t give the money to the plaintiff, the money is paid into government coffers. However, what service providers can do is give airtime to individual subscriber whom they have cheated in one way or another but not the money. For instance, it is easier for them to give airtime than to bring out the money to pay debt,” he said.

According to Ojobo, penalty should be something that would compel the operators to improve on their quality of service. “Mind you, they can give airtime as compensation and still be providing poor quality of service, but if they feel pained to cough out N270 million, they should be obliged to improve on their service. The idea of such a painful sanction is to make them improve on the quality of their service. However, the service providers face other challenges that we need to be aware of like their inability to deploy infrastructure, which affects quality of service being provided,” he said.

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