By Adedeji Adeyemi Fakorede
The minister of Communications Mr. Adebayo Shittu has lamented the way and manner Nigerians, especially women, are been treated by the telecommunications companies, in their desperate bid to comply with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) directive for the registration of all SIMs in use.
NCC has severally threatened to deal with erring companies, even as MTN Nigeria was slammed with mega fine of $1trillion for failure to deactivate over five million subscribers.
Shittu threatened that the Ministry will deal with erring companies henceforth.
But, the operators are saying that the Minister ought to look beyond the cultural and religious aspects, as there are several factors to be considered of the process.
However, Shittu through Mr. Victor Oluwadamilare, his special assistant (Media), expressed displeasure on the process, “following the barrage of mind-boggling complaints by subscribers across the country.
“The Minister’s office had been inundated with several complaints from Nigerians, particularly women in veil, the way they were being treated, sometimes humiliated by workers of the telecommunications’ companies nationwide, the statement added.
The Minister listed the complaints to include “women in purdah dresses were requested to remove their veils in the public, despite the request by such women that a place should be provided out in a public glare for only female officials to attend to them, adding that all entreaties failed but rather they were alledely accused of being Boko Haram agents and they were refused registration after several altercation that ensued in some of the registration centres”.
Shittu who frowned at the development, urged the telecommunications companies involved to accord maximum respects their feminine nature and religious dispositions; moreso, since the Nigerian Constitution had guaranteed the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion of all citizens and that such rights could never be violated by executive or administrative lawlessness, highhandedness and insentivity.
The Minister said that Nigerians deserve unreserved apology from the affected telecommunications companies, adding that it is inhuman and unacceptable to treat Nigerians in a cruel manner, as it is a universal maxim that rights of even minorities are respected worldwide.
He therefore, urged the telcos to train and retrain their workforce on the right and more civilised ways of treating their customers, adding that sanctions may be applied against any erring company that refused to comply with the policies of the Nigerian Government under the “Change Agenda” of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The inhuman treatment meted out to the Nigerians in the course of the ongoing SIM re-registration exercise in the country, where subscribers were made to suffer untold hardships, mostly in the scorching sun and unbearable conditions are no longer acceptable, ” Shittu warned, adding that, “it is no longer business as usual”.
Responding to the Minister’s statement, Engineer Lanre Ajayi, president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), told Nigeria CommunicationsWeek that he believes the Minister’s statement as an observation which telcos will investigate.
Ajayi said, “Since Barrister Shittu assumed office I have viewed him as someone who is well travelled; therefore, he will not act in a manner that will disrupt the SIM re-registration. The process has to be look at holistically and not from cultural point of view.
“And, the Minister should be aware that the telcos are passing through the same economic challenges like other sectors. They are toiling daily to keep the quality of service better; while issues on forex and other industry issues have continued to bug them.”
Nevertheless, the Minister lamented the lackadaisical attitude of the affected companies in the treatment of their subscriber, blaming their conduct on the years of impunity under which they had operated without any serous checks.
“If the exercise of smaller countries like Rwanda were anything to go by, where operators play according to the rules and where infractions are usually met with stiff penalties, telecom companies in the country have to brace up or face the brunt of their inadequacies,” the Minister warned.