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My attack on Alakija bridge: Let the Virtual Operators come

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We have reduced cost of data by 50% ― Pantami
Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami

By Prince Osuagwu

Last Sunday, dare-devil armed robbers, at gunpoint, dispossessed me of my two operating tools; a sleek, smooth Samsung Galaxy A31 and a Tecno Phantom 9 smartphone, on top of Alakija bridge while one was trapped in a satanic hold up.

It was a close shelve with death. The bandits sprayed the driver’s window glass of my car with bullets and visible holes on the fabrics of the seats are shocking reminders to what would have happened if I were in the car by the time they arrived. Fortunately, on a self appointed mission of a road Marshal, I was looking for viable options to ease the traffic by the time they struck.

Although, I was lucky to escape death, I parted ways with the two beautiful monsters that have made my mobile life so interesting for a while now. I bade farewell to the two phones that have made my work life easy.

My company identity card, drivers licence, National Identity card, National Union of Journalists identity card, tax clearance card and other valuables also went with them.

However, those are the least of my worry. The most traumatising of the incident is that I am still unable to retrieve some of my lines up till today due to some obnoxious, draconian and unwarranted regulatory policies in the telecom sector today.

The two phones taken away by the robbers have my Glo, Airtel and 9Mobile lines and it is only the 9mobile line that didn’t take up to an hour for me to retrieve. Both Airtel and Globacom are citing restrictions from the Nigerian Communications Commission as reason why I will remain incommunicado for a long while.

The most painful is my Globacom line, which is on this column, and one which almost all my contacts know. A young man simply identified as Seyi who is the Head of GloWorld at Okota road, told me vehemently that I should wait until the NCC finishes harmonising SIM registration or go get a clearance letter from the Commission. Two options, by their impossible nature, that are more traumatising than the robbery incident. His reasons are that my SIM was not properly registered and could not be updated because the NCC placed a ban on SIM registration. This was a SIM registered by the same network, over seven years ago and on no occasion have I been notified to come and re-register it.

For him, the affidavit on loss of SIM which I have sworn, the NIN certificate and other means of certification that I had were tissue papers as far as retrieving my Glo line was concerned.

All these are consequences of the sudden ban on SIM sales and replacement by the minister of communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami on December 9, 2020.  Although part of the ban was lifted early this year through a statement jointly signed by the Director Public Affairs of the NCC, Dr Ikechukwu Adinde and National Identity Management Commission, NIMC’s head, Corporate Communication, Mr. Kayode Adegoke, some of the operators are still confused.

The statement titled “SIM Replacement Policy for the Nigerian Telecommunications Industry” read in part: “Based on recommendations of the Technical Committee, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy has approved a SIM Replacement Policy for subscribers whose SIMs have been lost, stolen, misplaced or damaged.

“This policy is part of the efforts to reduce the burden on subscribers and simplify the exercise. It is aimed at enabling telecommunications service users who need to replace their damaged, stolen or misplaced SIMs to re-establish access to telecom services”.

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The regulation gave three conditions that must be fulfilled before a SIM is replaced:

(i) That the subscriber presents a NIN; (ii) That an effective verification of the NIN is carried out by NIMC; and (iii) That the relevant Guidelines and Regulations of NCC concerning SIM Replacement are followed and adhered to”.

These are the conditions I have fulfilled, and still unable to get my lines back from Globacom and Airtel. It shows that jack-boot policy method can confuse. The telecom sector is a refined sector which runs almost on auto pilot because the principles are clear. It is a black and white; pen and paper sector where the laws are generally respected. It is not a sector where one minister will jump off from his bed and say “so shall it be”

Virtual Operators:

So, how does this concern the mobile virtual operators? A Mobile Virtual network Operator, MVNO  is a telecommunications product and service operator that rides on top of the infrastructure capacity of a fully-licensed mobile telecommunication service provider or mobile network operators (MNOs).

In other words, an MVNO is a company that provides mobile communication services, sells subscriptions and bills to customers under its own brand but does not have its own spectrum licence. An MVNO establishes an agreement with the hosting operator from whom it buys a wholesale network capacity to obtain essentially the same possibilities to offer mobile services to end-users as also an operator.

Nigeria is tinkering on the framework to admit this genre of operators in the country. Whether the country adopts a model that allows the new operators lease only the spectrum and build infrastructures or the one they can lease infrastructures from the existing operators and fly with their models, their coming will inject fresh competition. Besides, everywhere the MVNOs operate in the world, they have been seen to be faster and more business-minded.

Let them come, at least, they must be more flexible on issues like the one I am facing at moment.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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