‘Senate still stands against data price floor review planned by NCC’
Contrary to speculations that National Assembly may have given approval for the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to effect upward review of data price floor (DPF), a strong indication emerged at the floor of the Upper Legislative Chamber that senators are still not ready to tolerate any form of change on the prevailing statuesque.
DPF in data market segment is the set upper and lower tariff limits that can be allowed by the regulatory authority in any country for charges by telecoms networks on data usage by subscribers.
In his submission at plenary during a heated debate on the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) card maintenance charges being deducted from customers, Senate President, Bukola Saraki made a smart recall to similar issues that border ordinary citizens which Senate had put under in the past by the power of legislative authority.
Business Hilights recalls that two years ago, leading telecoms giant, MTN Nigeria relied on certain conditions provided by NCC to send messages to its data subscribers’ that it is raising data tariff at a given date.
Even though industry investors including sector pressure groups like ALTON, ATCON and others have decried none review of the DPF, the Senate did not wait till the MTN’s given date before it called on the attention of NCC to step down the planned new DPF vide a resolution passed by the Committee of the whole.
Accordingly, Bukola averred that “This Senate has done this many times before; when there was a hike in the mobile telecommunication data charges, we intervened and put an end to that. When there were discrepancies and increases in electricity tariffs we also took action. We have done this on a number of similar cases. Therefore, on this, I want us to take effective resolutions.”
While stressing that “The Senate must work to ensure that the Senate’s resolutions on the excessive bank charges goes beyond the debate stage, so that whatever action the Upper Legislative Chamber takes, would come into effect,” he made it clear that beyond party lines, lawmakers must serve the people.
He stressed that “This is a motion that affects the lives of every Nigerian—irrespective of what part of the country you come from or whatever political affiliation you might have. This is why we are here – to always defend and protect the interests of our people.”
“For me, this is a major step that we are taking. This is because I introduced the first ATM machine that came into Nigeria over 25-years ago.
He added that “Now, after 25-years, we should have grown out of these excessive charges and moved on. So, I believe that this something that we must address to create an environment that protects all Nigerians, because these kinds of charges in this economy affects everyone.”
In his contribution, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha noted that “The common man is also a victim. “Banks declare profits and you wonder where these profits are coming from—it’s from the sweat of the common man. Let us come up with a law that puts banks on their toes.”
Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah averred that “It won’t be out of place to institute a committee that will call on the CBN to tell us what these charges are about. The Senate by fiat should abolish charges if they can’t be verified.”
In his debate, Senator Kabiru Gaya stressed that “The Senate must take a serious stand on this issue. Nigerians are really suffering. The banking system is not encouraging. I had an issue, took it to the bank and was refunded but how many Nigerians can do this? The issue needs to be addressed.
In line with converging voices which followed a motion on the illicit and excessive bank charges on customers’ accounts, sponsored by Senator Olugbenga Ashafa, the Senate passed a resolution directing banks to forthwith, suspend deduction of ATM maintenance charge.
The Senate also called on commercial banks operating in the country to configure their machines to dispense up to N40,000 per withdrawal pending the outcome of the investigation by the Senate committees tasked with investigating the excessive and illicit bank charges.