By Tordue Salem
ABUJA—A law seeking to regulate the competitiveness of all businesses in Nigeria is underway from the House of Representatives.
A Bill, sponsored by Rep. C.I.D. Maduabum (PDP/Nnewi/ Ekwusigo-Anambra), if passed into law, will see to the establishment of the Federal Competition Commission, FCC, an agency that will regulate the activities of firms to ensure they compete heathily.
The sponsor of the piece of legislation said the idea was borne out of the need to clean up the rot and unethical conduct of businesses in the country, like “restrictive agreements” or transactions among companies which limit access to markets.
Maduabum said the law to protect consumers from unwholesome business practices was in tune with Section 16 of the 1999 constitution, which charges that there must be equity in the distribution of wealth and the means of production in the country.
“The state shall direct its policy towards ensuring that the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as much as possible to serve the common good; that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or a group,” the Bill ststed.
Maduabum recalled that the emergence of the telecoms company, Globacom, on the business stage, caused an unnecessary rise in call tariff, until the company introduced “per seconds billing which eventually led to reduction in billing.
“Distinguished colleagues, all of us are witnesses to the possible implication of a company being in the position to profitably maintain prices at an uncompetitive level for a significant period of time in the Nigerian GSM industry. The GSM became operational in Nigeria around August 2001.
“The MTN and ECONET were using per minute billing, PMB, in charging Nigerians N50 for their services.
“All entreaties for the service providers to review their tariffs and switch to per second billing failed as they put up several scientific and economic arguments to convince Nigerians on why the PMB was the only practical method for billing at that time.
“However, the situation changed around August 22, 2003 when Globacom entered the GSM industry with the introduction of PSB. Competition forced ECONET to change to PSB on or around November 26, 2007 and MTN in December 2003”, he stated.
The lawmaker notsed that although Globacom is not noted for charity, its coming into the Nigerian telecoms sector, crashed tariffs, noting that the case of Globacom and others, is enough reason for the establishment of an agency to mediate decent competition among businesses, with a view to protecting the consumer.
“I do not intend to suggest that MTN and ECONET had any form of understanding on the tariffs before Globacom entered the market, never, far from that. But as a country we need an agency that would be responsible for the supervision of economic players in the country to ensure healthy competition. Such agency, Mr Speaker would be established with the passage of this Bill”, he added.
Also in support of the Bill, is Rep. Bala Na’Allah(PDP/Zuru/Sakaba-Kebbi) and others, who are backing the passage of the Bill into law.
According to Na’Allah, the Bill is “consistent with provisions of the constitution”. He predicted that if passed, the statute would stem the arbitrary rises in prices of goods and services by organisations. The Bill was is referred to the House Committee on Commerce for further legislative input.