Minister of Communications Technology Adebayo Shittu has debunked claims that he approved data tariff increase by TELCOs.
Rather, he said the Federal Government reneged on most of the promises it made to the TELCOs when they were being licensed to provide services in the country.
The minister spoke while fielding questions from reporters in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, saying the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is the agency empowered under the law to do so.
He said: “The reason for this is that the Nigerian state has failed in the agreement they had with the telecom service providers.
“They promised to provide them adequate power supply and security but all these are not in place and they are spending a lot of money to provide them by themselves. “Also the problem of right of way is involved with the high tax government and land grabbers are collecting from them.
“As a government, we must weigh the interest of our citizens against the interest of the operators. Otherwise, if it becomes impossible for these companies to operate here, they will simply pack and go. So, we also need to be considerate about their terms which we are not meeting.
The minister said he learnt of the proposed increase just like any other common man on the streets, but revealed that the proposal on the increase dated back to 2013.
He said the issue was suspended over some issues but stated that it was resuscitated because of the current economic recession, which he said is taking toll on the finances of the TELCOs.
“The Ministry of Communications is saddled with the responsibility of providing political leadership for the ICT industry. By that, it means that the ministry is involved in the formulation of policy issues as opposed to dabbling into regulatory issues, which concerns the telecoms industries
“By law, it is the NCC which has the power to regulate, to license, to also provide frequency and all of that. The ministry does not have any business in issues of regulating the telecoms industry.
“So when the NCC wanted to increase the so-called data issue, they didn’t take permission from us (Ministry) and myself. So, I heard it like any other person in the society.
“As a government and a ministry, we have neither supported or oppose the proposal. What we are saying is that NCC is a regulatory body, that has the manpower, technological wherewithal to decide, and when they take this decision, we must try to respect their expertise.
“This is because the Buhari government is at pains, if Nigerians are in pains. Government would not want to do anything that will bring pain and hardship to Nigerians, but again government must also face the reality that we are in a reality where you do not throw the baby away with the bath water. We must strive to create a situation where Nigerian interest at the end of the day will not be jeopardized.”
He however urged Nigerians to come up with the reality that the companies are profit making ventures, and which have also contributed their quotas to the economy in recent time. He therefore called for mutual understanding from Nigerians, operators and the NCC in reaching an amicable conclusion on the matter.