By UDO IBUOT
THE National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) has given the Federal Government, two weeks ultimatum to empanel a judicial commission of inquiry to probe the processes of the 2.3 gigahertz (GHZ) spectrum bidding that is the subject of a face off between the minister of information and communication, Prof. Dora Akunyili and the executive vice chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Engr. Ernest Ndukwe.
The association said in a statement signed by its national president, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo and director of legals, strategy and organization, Prince Bayo Omotubora, that if this was not done, it will drag the appropriate authorities to court to ensure total compliance with the demand.
NATCOMS said that while the minister said the process of the spectrum bidding was not transparent and due process was not followed in awarding the licences to the winners, the NCC in its response said the process was transparent and due process fully employed as in previous licensing procedures.
The statement noted that from the body language of the protagonist and the antagonist, it was obvious that the crisis centred around a rejuvenated telecommunication firm, which according to the association, went out of operation in 2005 because of alleged inability to pay its mounting debts which prompted the creditors to appoint a receiver to take over the firm. It noted that the attempt of the receiver to take over the firm led to the sudden and unexplained death of its former managing director, adding that nobody heard anything about the firm until the current controversy surrounding the award of 2.3Ghz spectrum to it.
NATCOMS said the judicial commission of inquiry was imperative in order to avoid a repeat of colossal losses suffered by innocent Nigerians in subscribing to Nitel and Transcorp, stressing that in 2001, Nitel, through Mtel was awarded a GSM licence to roll out GSM services, and after some dilly-dallying, Mtel rolled out various packages under different names and used media campaign to hoodwink millions of Nigeria to buy the new lines, but later went under with subscribers money.
Ogunbanjo and Omotubora said that at her maiden meeting with telecommunications operators in Abuja on January 6, the information and communication minister had directed the operators to review downward the exhorbitant tariffs, and had indeed given the operators 90 days to undertake the drastic reduction. They noted that after the expiration of the 90 days, the NCC has not done anything to enforce the directive, and till now has not said anything about tariff reduction.