By Henry Umoru
ABUJA—THE President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, yesterday, warned MultiChoice Nigeria not to dare Nigeria by going ahead to hike the tariffs of its products, while the matter was being investigated.
Lawan, who said this while inaugurating a seven-member Adhoc Committee of the Senate, headed by the Senate Deputy Chief Whip, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi, warned that no foreign operators in the country should take Nigeria for granted.
He said: “No operator should take us for granted. We mean business. We want you to be here. Nigeria always provides the climate for you to do your businesses but don’t abuse the laws of our country.
“Our consumers here are people who are innocent and we are prepared to protect them.
“Meanwhile, stay action. No increase. No increase. And that is to say don’t dare our country. No increase in tariffs.”
The committee was set up by the Senate on Wednesday, March 30, 2022, against the backdrop of an announcement of tariff hike by the Multichoice pay TV service provider, DStv.
The Senate President, who explained the rationale behind the setting up of the committee, said: “The reason for setting up this adhoc committee is well known and this is in consistent with what we are supposed to do as members of parliament, as distinguished senators.
“When the legitimate interests of our people are threatened, we are supposed to ensure that we protect them.
“It has been the practice of many companies, especially foreign companies operating in Nigeria to treat the Nigerian consumers of their products in a different way and manner that is not consistent with global best practices.
“I am not going to preempt the outcome of this investigation but one thing is clear, that the Senate is prepared to go all the way to unearth the exact situation that is happening with respect to how much Nigerian consumers of the DStv or Pay-TV tariffs are charged and how does that compare to other jurisdictions in other countries.
“DStv, one of the operators, has shown the tendency to increase the tariffs without due consultation with stakeholders and we feel this is not the right way to go about it and therefore we even need to find out whether or not what we are paying already is not out of the roof and different from what other countries are charged.
“So your task as a committee is to look at the issue very dispassionately with a very clear mind and focus on what we need to know.
“The Consumers Protection Council and other agencies of government and even NGOs and CSOs are supposed to attend this kind of investigation. We need to know what roles such government institutions, established for the purposes of protecting Nigerian consumers, perform. What are their problems if they are not doing well?
“The report, at the end of the day, is supposed to be a report that will guide the Senate to take resolutions that will ensure that Nigerian consumers of the products, Pay-TV, are fully protected but at the same time that will not emasculate the businesses. We want to see a win-win situation for both consumers and operators.
“But let me be very clear at this point, we are going to take on any operators who decide to charge Nigerians tariffs that are not charged anywhere outside this country.
“I also want to add here that any operators, especially foreign, who do not want to respect and obey our laws, should leave. After all, it is only in this country that most of these operators behave the way they do, whether they are telecoms or DStv or whatever.
“In other climes, they do better. They respect the consumers. They respect the laws of the countries where they operate. It is only in Nigeria where they don’t give us any respect and I think we will take them on.”
FCCP Tribunal adjourns hearing to May 5
Meanwhile, a three-man Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, FCCP, Tribunal, sitting in Abuja, has adjourned the hearing on its jurisdiction to entertain the matter brought against MultiChoice Nigeria to May 5, 2022.
The tribunal made the adjournment, on Monday, following a complaint by a lawyer, Festus Onifade, and the Coalition of Consumers of Nigeria that MultiChoice had violated the tribunal’s March 30 interim order that the pay-television company should revert to old prices.
MultiChoice’s lawyers, quoting a series of legal authorities, had countered the submission that the company violated the tribunal’s order, having challenged the jurisdiction of the tribunal on March 31.
They argued that the next course of action by the tribunal is to hear the application challenging its jurisdiction.
The FCCPC, the second respondent in the matter, also agreed with the submission by MultiChoice’s lawyers that the next step is the hearing on the company’s application for jurisdiction.
The tribunal, in its ruling, adjourned the matter to May 5, 2022, for a hearing of the application on jurisdiction.