The lack of synergy that has come to be associated with the Buhari administration continues to exhibit itself almost at every turn. In a recent demonstration of this, the Minster of Communications, Adebayo Shittu claimed that the planned hike in data prices, which was foiled by the FG, was actually initiated by the telecommunications companies.
This claim is in sharp contrast to what the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said at the time of announcing their planned increase. According to them, the NCC, in its position as an industry regulator, wanted to stifle the ‘perceived oligopoly’ that existed in the industry and allow growth of the so-called smaller telecom companies.
However, according to Shittu, who spoke in Ibadan yesterday, failure of the government to provide necessary infrastructure, coupled with the recession, had made the telecom companies approach NCC, not the other way around. “When they [telecom companies] approached the NCC that they wanted an increase in the data price, they did not consult us. I heard it like every other person.” Guardian quotes Shittu as saying.
Once again, Nigerians are left confused as to what is what and who is right. However, a careful analysis of information that is publicly available seems to show that the Minister of Communications is getting his facts wrong.
First, if the telecom operators desired a hike in data prices, why was a round table discussion with the NCC necessary? Presently, what exists within the telecom industry is that operators are allowed to set their prices as they wish. In fact, at different periods, operators have decided to hike prices without the drama that followed this planned price hike.
Secondly, since when did the Federal Government have the authority to dictate whether or not telecom operators hike their prices? This is a necessary question as it was the last-minute directive from the government that stalled the proposed move.
Third, considering that the planned hike in data prices was to affect only 3 of the ‘big boys’ in the industry (Etisalat already has an average data price above the 90k/MB cap set), how can the Honorable Minister say that the telecom operators instigated the move?
It is quite likely that the Minister came up with a spur-of-the-moment reaction to questions asked, as that seems to be a more plausible reason than the option that he is not abreast of the happenings in the sector under his oversight.