For 13 days running, the fine imposed on four major telecoms operators by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has jumped to N1.3 billion, from the initial N1.17 billion, and it is still counting.
NCC had on May 11, 2012, sanctioned MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat, a cumulative fine of N1.17 billion, for poor quality of service on their networks for the months of March and April.
NCC ordered the operators to pay the fine on or before Friday May 25, 2012, or risk sanction of additional payment of N2.5 million per day for as long as the contravention persists.
The affected operators have refused to pay the initial amount of N1.17 billion, let alone the daily penalty of N2.5 million that has accumulated to N32.5 million per telecoms operator, amounting to N130 million for the four telecoms operators for the 13th day running, bringing it to a total of N1.3 billion.
Telecoms subscribers are worried that the stalemate between NCC and the operators may further deteriorate the quality of service across networks.
President of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, told THISDAY that the telecoms operators were not shifting grounds from its initial position not to pay the fine.
“We are still discussing and holding our grounds. The fine is inappropriate, it is an act against the facts and it does not reflect the realities of the challenges that we face as industry operators, which the regulator is very well aware. We are insisting that the parameters for Quality of Service (QoS) must be redefined in line with the peculiarities of our operating environment,” he said.
Adebayo complained about the manner in which the fine was imposed, explaining that NCC made a public show of the matter, rather than addressing the real issue that led to poor telecoms service across the country.
Immediate past President of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem told THISDAY that the refusal of telecoms operators to pay the fine would adversely affect operations and regulations.
He called on telecoms operators to handle the matter with caution and make efforts to pay the fine.
When contacted on phone, Director Public Affairs for NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo, told THISDAY that there was no new update on the matter, but that the NCC would not shift from its earlier position, which mandated telecoms operators to pay the fine.
The operators had last week met with NCC in Abuja, asking the regulator to drop the option of fine, but the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, insisted that the operators must first pay the fine before complaining.
The issue of poor telecoms service has lingered for too long, with NCC issuing threat letters and warning operators to improve on their service quality or face sanction. In spite of the several warnings, service quality kept dwindling, because NCC had not applied serious sanctions for violation of service quality, until January this year, when the Quality of Service Guidelines were gazetted, and there was need for NCC to exercise its statutory powers and apply sanctions when necessary.