By Prince Osuagwu
PAN-African NGO for the development of telecom in Africa,Â Africa Telecom Development Initiative, ATDI, has commended the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC for its revolutionary advocacy for the protection of telecom consumers in the country through the monthly telecom consumer parliament .
ATDI said that since the licensing of GSM companies in 2001, the NCC has adopted a near regulatory activism just to ensure the protection of the consumer, raise quality of service consciousness among operators and as well promote the potentials of the Nigerian market.
The NGO recalled that NCC set up the Consumer Affairs Bureau in September 2001, barely one month after the first two GSM companies rolled out services essentially to inform, educate and protect consumers.
The mantra of the Bureau was that consumers should take advantage of the Bureau before any operator takes advantage of them. The Bureau, is a major department of the NCC which coordinates the telecom consumer parliament.
Executive Secretary of ATDI, Mr Ken Ugbechie, said such initiative in an increasingly capitalist investment environment, speaks volume of a people-centric commission, adding that â€œthe Parliament is an expression in regulatory activism by the NCC to protect the consumer and help the operators improve their service offerings.
It currently holds once in a month in different parts of the country and it has been held in all the geo-political zones, thus bringing both the operators and the regulator closer to the consumers. We recommend this model for other agencies in other sectorsâ€.
Ugbechue also noted that â€œthrough the Parliament, consumers have not only found a voice but their voice is heard. More importantly, the consumer, the operator and the regulator now have a regular forum to rub minds for the overall development of the telecom sector. Moving the event from one part of the country to another every month has helped the operators to access and better appreciate their level of market penetration, quality of service delivery as well as consumer behaviourâ€.
For him, the fact that other telecom jurisdictions in the world are copying the Nigerian model of telecom consumer protection is a testimony of the success and desirability of the parliament. And so, with the success achieved in telecom in less than a decade, it is possible for the Yarâ€™Adua government to also achieve the landmark objective of Vision 20-2020 which is to make Nigeria one of the top 20 economies in the world by 2020.
ATDI said it had taken time to study the activities of the Ahmed Joda/Ernest Ndukwe-led NCC and discovered that their administration had grown the nationâ€™sÂ teledensity from 0.4 in 2000 to over 50 percent at the moment; achieved digital mobile network spread covering 36 states of the federation and six geo-political zones; attaining coverage of over 90 percent of Nigeriaâ€™s population and pushing the total subscriber base to over 70 million now.
The non governmental organisation also expressed happiness that the commission had reduced waiting time for telephone acquisition to virtually zero andÂ making telecom a major contributor to the nationâ€™s GDP, adding that the multiplier effect which telecom now has on other sectors of the economy like financial services, oil and gas, agriculture, maritime/shipping, trade and industry among others is overwhelming.