By Omobayo Azeez
Nigerians have called on telecommunications companies in Nigeria to reduce tariffs for voice and data services on their networks in the light of the current disruption triggered by coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).
They stressed that now that most companies have resorted to remote operations and people are dealing with movement restriction, everyone is left with voice calls, small messaging system (SMS) and data service to keep up with daily business and social realities.
In a statement on Friday, Association of Telephone, Cable TV and Internet Subscribers (ATCIS) urged the operators to be patriotic and not see the disruption posed by the pandemic as an opportunity to make easy money.
Sina Bilesanmi, national president of the association, further called for collaborations between the customers and telecoms operators, adding that the if the virus must be defeated, access to telecoms services must not only be available but also affordable.
“The situation at hand is a very delicate one and the only way we can have a breakthrough is by prioritising patriotism above personal gains and gratifications. Everyone is caught almost unprepared by COVID-19, therefore forcing us to abandon our places of works and start working from home.
“We cannot do this unless we have access to telecommunications services for voice and data. This may appear a good time for our mobile network operators (MNOs) to rake in more money as rate of spending on voice and data multiplies.
“However, they should see this time as an opportunity to further exhibit their value as responsible corporate citizens by slashing tariffs on calls and data,” Bilesanmi said, adding that “Good name is better than riches some times and now is just one of such times.”
Similarly, Lora Oloyede, chief executive officer of Lora and Loyd Communications Limited, urged the operators to reduce tariffs to allow children continue with their learning online and enable adults obtain required information to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“Children at home use online sources to continue learning at this critical time and adults rely mostly on data to get more information on how to protect themselves and curb the spread of this virus. Consequently, there is a lot of traffic of on data usage. So, I am calling on the giant telecoms operators to please reduce their tariffs.
“Look at this as another form of corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme. This is the time for you to show that really care. We know that you care but please take this a step further by reducing your tariffs,” She said.
Ina another development, Atiku Abubakar, former vice president of Nigeria, in a statement during the week called on the telecoms service providers to gift individual active telephone lines on their networks with free airtime.
He said, “I also urge these telecommunications firms to offer each of the 100 million mobile phone lines in Nigeria free credit of at least ₦1,500 per mobile line, so that Nigerians who show symptoms, or those who just want information, can call the nearest available health facility, or even an ambulance service, as the case may be.”
Already, Olusola Teniola, president of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigerian (ATCON), told business A.M that as the current situation demands self-isolation and avoidance of crowd, the consumers are resorting to getting things done digitally, and consequently consume more of telecoms services, which translate to more revenue for operators.
Teniola said, “With self-isolation, and with federal government directive that many institutions be closed to ensure that the spread of the virus is curtailed, this will naturally lead to change in consumer behavior.
“These changes are reflected in the uptake in the usage of collaborative tools to communicate, to do business and work from home or digitally working or e-learning starting from primary, secondary to tertiary institutions.
“So, we have seen from the telecoms sector side a ramp up in demand for voice, data services, multimedia services and services that can be beneficial with remote access to ensure that the spread of the service can be contained. We see this as positive to the industry going forward until the virus has is eventually contained.”