The Senate Committee on Communications has directed the Nigerian Communications Commission to hasten the payment of the N1.17bn fine it imposed on telecoms operators for poor quality services being rendered to subscribers.
This is as the commission has proposed an expenditure of N2.2bn to monitor the quality of services being provided by the firms this year.
Appearing before the committee on Wednesday to defend its 2012 budget, NCC sought the approval of the Senate for an expenditure profile of N48.8bn during the fiscal year.
But the committee expressed worries that it took the commission so long to punish the telecoms operators, whose quality of service had continued to dwindle over time to the displeasure of subscribers, who had recorded serious losses.
The Chairman of the committee, Senator Gilbert Nnaji, said NCC must ensure that the fines imposed for poor quality of services were paid by the operators.
“There is no doubt today that in spite of the various issues going on in our nation’s telecoms sector, the issue of worsening quality of service, for instance, has become so endemic that one begins to have the impression that both the regulator and the operators have lost control,” he said.
Nnaji also raised questions on the returns on investment in telecoms infrastructure, such as the State Accelerated Broadband Initiative and the Wire Nigeria Project enabled by budgeted funds to enhance the quality of service.
“However, the sorry state of the prevailing telecoms quality of service leaves no one in doubt that these projects seem not to be yielding desired results,” he said.
Nnaji noted that the Senate had mandated the committee to carry out an investigation into the quality of service following perennial problems with the GSM networks.
He said it took a resolution of the Senate on the state of services being provided by the operators to awaken NCC to its responsibility and impose fines on errant operators.
Responding to questions raised by the committee, the Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwa, said sanctions were not imposed before now because of the non-availability of an enabling regulation.
He said, “We could not sanction them in December because we did not have the regulation to do that. The regulation we are using to sanction them was just gazetted towards the end of February. If you sanction the service providers, they will take you to court and the action will become null and void.
“So, we are on a very solid ground to sanction them now and we are now waiting for them to pay us. They have written to us asking for a meeting, but the sanction still stays.”
Details of the commission’s budget showed that its capital and special projects would gulp N17.9bn, while N13.9bn was earmarked for other internal expenditures.
The commission also intends to spend N7.1bn on its emergency communications centre, while N4.3m will go to the school support scheme.
NCC projects that it will generate an estimated N6.5bn for the Federal Government from spectrum fees and other charges.