One of the biggest revelations anyone's brief visit to Nigeria will be to discover the shabby, deteriorating state of mobile telephony in Nigeria. In a word, service providers are serving Nigerian mobile phone users a raw deal. And the hapless phone owners can’t count on any government agency or official to look out for them.
The mobile telephone crisis is across the board – and it’s become nothing short of a scandal. Nigeria has three major mobile telephone networks – MTN, Glo and Airtel. Noone believes any of them boasts satisfactory service delivery. Many Nigerians maintain three or more phones, one from each of the major providers. Yet, the problem persists. In fact, my friends, relatives and acquaintances who use one of the three providers or another voiced the same complaints. They said circuits are so often jammed that they are unable to reach the person they need to speak to. When contact is made, the calls are plagued by frequent, irritating disconnections. Often, one or both parties are unable to hear the conversation.
On one occasion, I was at the domestic airport in Lagos waiting to board a flight for Calabar. I desperately needed to speak to a cousin of mine who was supposed to meet me before my departure. We had spoken earlier that day. Yet, when I made more than ten attempts to reach him from the airport, I kept getting the message that his number did not exist! Later, he informed me that he had similarly tried to reach my number, but got nowhere. The day of my departure back to the US, I rang the number of a friend. He and I were within the vicinity of the airport, but my calls didn’t go through. This time, I repeatedly got the message that his phone was not available.
Yet, when we finally ran into each other, he confirmed that his phone was always on. And that he wasn’t on a different call, either. In between these two experiences, I made or received numerous calls where I could not hear the person on the other line – or the person couldn’t hear me. A few times, the phone made a whirring sound that impeded hearing by both caller and called. And here’s what rubs high doses of salt on the injury of “dropped” or inaudible calls: the telephone companies still make you pay for it. That’s right. Each time I made an uncompleted call, I immediately got text information on how much I was charged. It was a case of heads you lose, tails you lose. If the phone providers can’t do their jobs, they still make their customer pay! Perhaps, this factor is a major reason the three main operators cart away ever burgeoning levels of profit.