The federal government has absolved itself from the controversial increase in the price of Internet data by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, distanced his ministry from the controversial data tariff increase, denying that it authorized it.
The government’s reaction came as the Senate also ordered the suspension of the increase and condemned it in totality.
The implementation of the new tariff was billed to take effect December 1.
Adebayo maintained that the Federal Government never issued any directive to either the regulator, the NCC, or the telecommunications operators in the country authorising increases in prices of data from today as claimed.
“I wasn’t consulted. The government did not authorize operators to raise tariffs,” he said.
He, however, assured Nigerians that the government would look into the matter and continue to protect their interests.
“I can tell you that I was never a party to it (data tariff hike). Government never gave any such instruction. This government believes in democratic process and we would continue to protect the interest of Nigerians,” he said.
The Nigerian Communications Commission on Wednesday suspended any further action on the directive to introduce price floor for data segment of the telecommunications sector beginning from Dec. 1.
The Director, Public Affairs, NCC, Mr Tony Ojobo, announced in a statement in Lagos that the decision to suspend the directive was taken after due consultation with industry stakeholders and the general complaints by consumers across the country.
Ojobo said that the commission had weighed all of these and consequently asked all operators to maintain the status quo until the conclusion of study to determine retail prices for broadband and data services in Nigeria.
He said that the regulatory body wrote to the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) on Nov. 1, on the determination of an interim price floor for data services after the stakeholder’s consultative meeting of Oct. 19.
According to him, the decision to have a price floor is primarily to promote a level playing field for all operators in the industry, encourage small operators and new entrants.
“The price floor in 2014 was N3.11k/MB but was removed in 2015. The price floor that was supposed to flag off on December 1, 2016, was N0.90k/MB.
“In taking that decision, the smaller operators were exempted from the new price regime by virtue of their small market share.
“The decision on the price floor was taken in order to protect the consumers who are at the receiving end and save the smaller operators from predatory services that are likely to suffocate them and push them into extinction.
“The price floor is not an increase in price but a regulatory safeguard put in place by the telecommunications regulator to check anti-competitive practices by dominant operators.
“This statement clarifies the insinuation in some quarters that the regulator has fixed prices for data services.
“This is not true because the NCC does not fix prices but provides regulatory guidelines to protect the consumers, deepen investments and safeguard the industry from imminent collapse,” he said.