By Ebele Orakpo
THIS was one of the news items in one of the national dailies which sparked off the debate of the masses this day.
A commuter, Mr. Uzo, who was reading the news item exclaimed thus: â€œMy God! In this country? From Nigerians? And we keep saying thereâ€™s no money. These people are ripping us off. Do they rake in such fabulous amounts in other countries?â€
Startled by this outburst, most of the commuters wanted to know what the problem was. First to speak was Mr. Etim: â€œBros, what are you talking about? Who is ripping us off?â€
Holding up the newspaper for all to see the offending headline, Uzo said: â€œAccording to the report, MTN said it raked in N700 billion revenue in one year! Billion oh, not million,â€ he emphasised.
â€œI am not surprised at all. This can only happen in my fatherland, Nigeria and nowhere else on the surface of the earth because our leaders donâ€™t give a hoot about what happens to the people they are leading,â€ noted Comfort.
Continuing, she said: â€œThey definitely donâ€™t make such money in other countries. I visited Ghana recently and noticed that when they make or receive calls, they do it leisurely, not in aÂ hurry.
They have the time to ask after your health, family, dog, cat, etc, unlike in Nigeria where we make calls with a lightening speed in order to cut cost. I witnessed it over and over again that I was prompted to ask a Ghanaian friend why it was so and she said it doesnâ€™t cost much to make calls. They always laughed at me whenever I was on phone.â€
Corroborating Comfortâ€™s submission, Vivian said the same thing is obtainable in Togo and Benin Republic. â€œIn these other countries, they make and receive calls so leisurely as if the calls are free of charge. Even in the US, it is cheap.
I loaded my phone with N500 recharge card and called a friend in the US. Before I could say Jack Robinson, the credit was gone. My friend called back and we spoke for over one hour! I was so sure he had spent so much but he assured me the credit had lasted for so long.
He said he bought just $10 about N1,500 worth of credit and had used it for about one month. I couldnâ€™t believe it.â€
â€œIâ€™m sure their service providers donâ€™t use diesel-powered generators to do business and they donâ€™t give free phones, lines and N50,000 complimentary recharge cards monthly to the lawmakers and other office holders. So they have to make the money to be able to meet these obligations, â€ said Nnamdi.
â€œWait a second, what did you just say about our lawmakers? That they receive complimentary recharge cards monthly,â€ asked Etim.Â â€œIsnâ€™t that bribery so that they would never be called to order by anybody no matter what they do?â€
Said Nnamdi: â€œCall it whatever you will, that is what is on ground and that is why things would remain the way they are until we all learn to put national interest first before personal interest.â€
â€œI donâ€™t get this! If the petty trader can afford to buy recharge cards, why not the lawmakers who earn mega-bucks each month?â€ asked Gloria.
â€œThe answer is not far-fetched. The lawmakers have something to offer the service providers which the ordinary man does not have, and that is protection from the law.
In this case, consumers are on their own The petty trader is overcharged so that they can make enough money to indulge the big guys. So in effect, you and I are paying for it because the businessman is in business to make profit,â€ noted Uzo. Said Vivian: â€œI heard that Prof. Dora Akunyili rejected the offer as a minister because she knew it was wrong. I wish others would do same as that is the only way we can fight this evil.â€
â€œReject awoof (free gift) in Nigeria? You must be joking. Itâ€™s only in Nigeria that a government official will own five official cars with five drivers, all paid by tax payers.
Elsewhere, he is entitled to one vehicle and one driver and in some cases, no driver and if he chooses to have more cars and drivers, he pays from his pocket,â€ stated Gloria.
â€œI pray things change. The Acting president is working,â€ said Uzo.