- General

The Role of GSM Operators in Nigeria Economy

It was joy unlimited when two of Nigeria’s major GSM operators announced their presence in August 2001.The operators were granted licenses to commence operation to revitalize the economy. MTN and Econet now Zain became the major players as the Nigeria ‘s premier GSM operators. People heave a sigh of relief that the sector that had since being dominated or monopolized by The National Telecommunication (NITEL) system has finally being broken.

Econet was first to commence operations in August 2001, that development made Nigeria one of the First few countries on the continent to join the fast changing telecommunication elites at the time. In the later part of that same year, MTN also commences operation paving way for competition. Having a mobile phone back in those days was like having a private jet, it was indeed a luxury. The obnoxious cost of mobile phones and the Network lines made robbers or mobile phone snatchers to be on the prowl. The ostentatious display of handsets by the haves was enough to send a poor man to his early grave out of frustrations.

A minute call was as high as 50naira, a network line was also as high as 30,000naira and the handset was 20,000naira which is about 35 US cents, $200 and $135 respectively. Judging by these figures, am sure everyone will agree with me that they were indeed on the high side thereby making it a germ in the hands of the rich folks. A country where the minimum salaries is around $60 a month, so it was more like robbery in those days.

The two operators were busy smiling to their banks, making money with impunity off their innocent clients despite the abysmal, bizarre and embarrassing services provided by these operators, but since there are no suitable structures was put in place by the appropriate authorities which made them go about their normal business with little or no concern for their customer’s satisfaction.

It’s been nine years down the memory lane, interestingly we have almost a score of them around today. An average person would have thought that with a lot of them around, it will spark up strict competitions which will prompt them to better services and at cheaper rates. Unfortunately, the reverse is the case. A major comparison in terms of charges between Nigeria and other Africa nations will leave one in a sordid mood. Take Ghana And Nigeria for instance, having lived in both countries, I can as a matter of fact state clearly with little or no errors in my analysis.The differences regarding the charges between the two countries is a colossal in terms of money.

It is interesting to note that it is a lot cheaper to call other or same networks in Ghana, make calls to Nigeria than to make a call to same network in Nigeria let alone to other networks or making International calls, the development will only leave the poor in total poverty. It saddens my heart that the appropriate authorities are quite aware of this unfortunate incidents, but they are less concern as long as they have the money to buy “Recharge cards or Minutes ” so who cares.

To make matters worst, their conscience had long being bought by some of these companies, the development that has subjected them to being puppets. Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, with 150millions people which stands it out from other nations, one of the advantages will be that more people will be on various networks compare to other countries with lesser population. Which means; more money for the GSM operators. Also, the more affordable their services are, the more money in their hands because it will give an average person the chance or the opportunity to afford their services. This is working in china, even in Ethiopia the second most populous Africa nations, so why can’t it work in Nigeria.

Population has a whole lot of advantages so am still in a state of shock that up till now they cannot harness such opportunity. Unfortunately, the operators know exactly what they are doing, but since they don’t have anyone to check their excesses, keep up with the pace is their lullaby. They ascribe their frivolous charges to all manner of feeble excuses, such as; paying a lot of money before their operating licenses were granted, lack of basic infrastructures such as power supply. One will begin to wonder what has gone wrong with the management of these companies, they have all other available avenues to make up on the power deficiencies, that is if there is any. The large population is one of the major advantages they have but they would rather prefer to shy away from the glaring truth.

Nigeria is not the only country without a regular power supply, but you will all agree with me that the charges in those other countries are a lot cheaper than what is obtained in Nigeria. Ghana is only 22 millions in terms of population and the only difference between the two countries is that Ghana can boast of regular power supply so what other excuse do they have to give us? It is sickening.

The most annoying part of these practices is that they have various means of ripping people off their hard earn money through series of fictitious money making scam called “Sales Promotions”. They splash out a whole lot of mouth watering gifts only to deceive the innocent public. I have seen people investing their entire life savings in such ventures in a bid to win some of these prizes, but at the end of the day, it has been an exercise in futility. The Management of these Companies needs to be checked because they are gradually deviating from there original assignments. Imagine a company granted a license to operate as a telecommunication company now engaging in financial practices when it is not a financial institution.

It will be interesting to note that by the time 100,000 people sends messages to the special code generated for these “promotions”, they would have covered the cost incurred for the fictitious packages, so imagine 2millions people sending messages to the same code, at a very annoying high fixed charges, it is really sad. Instead of channeling these energies towards better services, they are rather making their already overstretched clients more stressed out.

I suggest that the appropriate authorities look into this as a matter of urgency. Am glad that the current President Jonathan is not part of the cabal that indulge in corruption, hopefully something drastic will be done as soon as possible to check the excesses of these GSM operators because they are really subjecting a lot of people into serious mental and financial torture all in the name of buying airtime to talk to family and friends.