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NCC distances self from VAS providers/networks multibillion naira debts crisis

It was fireworks Thursday as Value Added Services (VAS) providers engaged the industry regular, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), seeking a policy statement that will compel GSM networks to pay their accruing money that always pass through their system without delays.

But in a swift reaction, the NCC represented by Ms. Helen Obi, said “NCC cannot dabble into the debt crisis as we were not there when you signed agreements so as to know when there is a default”.

She argued that NCC is not and cannot be a debt collector, but shall remains a regulator the law has made it to be at all times.

Obi rather advised both the VAS providers and network operators who are all members of Association of telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) to use the instruments of arbitration provided by the association to resolve the matter instead of coming to NCC all the time.

But in an exclusive interview with Hyacinth Anucha, Coordinator of VAS at ATCON, he said “There should be a framework for managing Value Added Service (VAS) providers to save them from the draconian forces of GSM majors who they rely on their networks to survive in business.

If the trend is not controlled, many jobs will be lost in the sub sector”.

“There is need for a policy statement from the regulator to the GSM majors. Such policy statement may include but not limited to provisions like giving a time frame for payment of revenues accruing from VAS usage of their networks to channel traffic.

“This will play a major role in sustaining the lives of VAS providers in the telecoms industry.

There are two licenses for VAS, one is a special numbering license, and the other is licenses for content provision using short codes.

“Where we are having problems and debts build up is in content provision using short codes.

The GSM networks who carry the traffics generated by VAS providers always fail to remit funds from the traffic generated by VAS operators and when you raise your voice, they will even kill your business the more.

Continuing, Anucha revealed “If you worry them much, they will agree to be paying you gradually and you cannot grow if you are paid for your services piecemeal”.

According to him, “All we are saying is that let the NCC come up with a provision that networks shall always pay VAS providers up to 80 per cent of their money collected by them at all times”.

“But for NCC to say that they will not dabble into financial agreements reached between parties in the issue of VAS and network owners’ debt crisis currently rocking the industry, it is unfair”.

He said many of the VAS providers have closed shops due to debts owed them by GSM networks.

Currently, there are over N30 billion hanging somewhere and the networks are not ready to pay and no government agency is willing to assist VAS providers to recover their money.

Earlier in his welcome address, the President of ATCON, Mr. Olusola Teniola said the Telecoms Executives and Regulators Forum (TERF) has been a yearly gathering put together by ATCON for stakeholders to come together and assess activities and recommend necessary reforms for the good of the sector.