Consumer advocacy is a form of social network which protects the interests of consumers. For instance, consumers posting their reviews on consumer advocacy sites will stir companies’ behavior towards consumers. Consumer advocacy and consumer protection is linked to the idea of consumer rights (that consumers have various rights as consumers), and to the formation of consumer organizations which help consumers make better choices in the marketplace.
Telecommunications sector is the only sector of the country’s economy that consumer’s right are protected as well as give opportunity to interface with service providers. It stands on a tripod. This did not happen spontaneously. It is as a result of regulatory framework initiated by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). The consumer wants the services to be of a good quality and affordable. The consumer wants the operator to respond at all times when he or she needs attention, and to provide explanations whenever anything goes wrong. The consumer wants to be protected at all times from being taken advantage of by service providers. Just like consumers of any services, the consumer of telecom services wants to be well treated. The commission has recognized all these and has put in place special structures to ensure that the needs and desires of the consumer are taken care of. For NCC, the consumer is the main object, the subject and the reason for their being.
Against this backdrop, that the sector has good number of consumer advocacy groups that are active in the industry which the commission is supporting to ensure that interest of consumers are taken care of, such groups include, National Association of Telecommunications Consumers Association (Natcomms), Consumer Right Project, among others.
Support for advocacy
The commission has many stakeholders in the regulatory process. These stakeholders include the government, consumers, the operators, the media, and the international community, among few others. The commission strives to meet the expectations of the many stakeholders.
The Commission is supportive of the activities of several Consumer Advocacy Groups. This is novel approach in the history of consumer care in Nigeria.
Collaboration with Consumer Protection Council (CPC): The Commission has signed an MOU with the CPC aimed at collaborating to further ensure protection of Consumers in relation to telecom service delivery.
Mr. Ken Ugbechie, executive secretary, Africa Telecom Development Initiative (ATDI), a Pan-African non Governmental Organization (NGO) committed to the development of telecom on the continent, said the telecom regulator’s revolutionary advocacy for the protection of telecom consumers in the country through the monthly telecom consumer parliament," is unequal.
According to him, upon the licensing of the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) companies in 2001, NCC oriented itself to regulatory activism to protect the consumer, thereby raising the quality of service consciousness among operators and promotion of potentials in the nation’s ICT market.
Mr. Ugbechie also said such initiative speaks volume of a people-centric commission wholly committed to protecting the consumer in an increasingly capitalist investment environment.
He pointed out that through the Parliament, consumers have a voice and equally been heard. "More importantly, the consumer, the operator and the regulator now have a regular forum to rub minds for the overall development of the telecom sector," he declared. ATDI noted that by moving the event from one part of the country to another every month has assisted the operators to access and better appreciate their level of market penetration, quality of service delivery in addition to consumer behavior.
Government is a very important stakeholder in the job of telecom regulation. The policy and the laws being implemented by the commission have been prepared and enacted by government for good of society. The government’s interest in the process also varies.
Government is interested that services are made available to the Nigerian people in a timely, qualitative and affordable manner and that activities in the sector are carried out in a legal and orderly manner. Government is also interested in creating an enabling environment that would continue to attract investment in the sector so that her desires for the people are substantially met.
The commission in all its actives is therefore mindful of the need to protect, preserve and implement actions and programmes that meet the expectations and objectives of government.
The operators also belong to a class of stakeholders in the business of telecom regulation. Apart from obtaining their operational license, with certain obligations attached to them, the operators also expect certain obligations from government and the regulator. They expect a non partial regulator to protect their huge investment. They want the Commission to ensure that no other entity interferes with their network resources such as frequently spectrum. They expect a regulator that will not be arbitrary in decision making and one that will regulate by the rules as contained in the license agreement and provisions of the laws and regulations.
The commission does not just theorises about empowering the consumer in industry, it has given practical expressions to this phenomenon through actions, policies and programmes which have venerated, empowered, protected and uplifted him/her in the comity of stakeholder in the industry. Prior to the enactment of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003, the commission had in September 2001 established a full fledged department called Consumer Affairs Bureau. The Bureau was charged with the mandate – to Protect, Inform and Educate the Nigerian telecoms consumers. This mandate has remained and irrevocable social contract between the commission and telecoms consumers in the country. At its maiden Consumer Forum at Flamingo Restaurant in Victoria Island in April 2002 and shortly after in August 2003, it launched the monthly Telecoms Consumer Parliament, a novel regulatory initiative that earned the commission, commendations not only in Nigeria, but from ITU, ICT professionals and groups across the globe. At the last count, 56 sessions of Telecoms Consumer Parliament has helped in no small measure in creating awareness of the rights of consumers and the obligations of the service providers in the resolution of their problems and concerns. It has enable operators to clarify issues pertaining to service delivery for the benefit of their subscribers and also to publicly give account of their stewardship to the people. Useful feedbacks have emanated from the programme which culminated in far-reaching regulatory interventions by the commission.
The commission has over the years proactively enunciated policies and programmes that served the interest of the consumers through promotion of competition in all segments of the telecom services portfolio to ensure that consumers have a wide range of products and services to choose from; and are not held to ransom by any service provider. Based on feedbacks received from consumers at the TCP, the commission intervened on the issue of tariff charged subscribers for calls made to customer care lines to lay consumers complaints.
In line with the commissions consumer-centric philosophy that it inaugurated a twelve-man Industry Consumer Advisory Forum, (ICAF), headed by Mrs. Ifeyinwa Umenyi the director general of the Consumer Protection Council to review the general consumer code of practice regulations by the Commission as well as facilitate consumer protection, information and educational programmes.
ICAF acts in advisory capacity, and will make recommendations to the commission regarding the interests and concerns of the consumer of ICT products and services, the interests and concerns of physically challenged and the elderly, ensure that consumers are protected from unfair practices and facilitate the review of the Consumer Code of Practice Regulations 2007 as well as make recommendations on all issues to the commission.
The commission has also defined acceptable quality of service thresholds which operators are expected to meet on the one hand, as well as sanctions in event of failure to meet those threshold. In order to ensure compliance by operators, regular monitoring by the commission of the operations of licenses across the length and breath of the country is undertaken.
Periodic reports on these monitoring activities are published on the website of the commission and in major national newspapers. To underscore the importance that the Board and management of the commission attach to improved QoS on the networks, an industry QoS Working Group was set up with members drawn from the public and private sectors of the economy.
In 2007, the commission caused to be gazetted Consumer Code of Practice Regulation which has become the reference document for both consumers and the operators. Each licensee is required to produce and submit a Code of Practice which has to be reviewed and approved by the Commission. The Code of Practice stipulates Services Level Agreements, the responsibilities and rights of each party, and procedure for resolving disagreements whenever they arise between parties.
Given the diversity of the country coupled with its geographical vastness, the commission has taken it upon itself to promote and nurture consumerism by identifying and collaborating with reputable Consumer Advocacy Groups to facilitate nation-wide consumer protection and empowerment as a precondition for orderly and sustainable growth and development for the telecoms industry in Nigeria.
Nigerians are craving for the replication of consumerism initiatives in telecommunications sector of the country’s economy in other sectors where consumers are badly treated without recourse to rules guiding service provision in those sectors. Among such sectors are energy, financial, healthy and housing.
NDPR to Safeguard Personal Data of Nigerians -DG NITDA
Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, director general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has disclosed that the motive behind the issuance of Nigerian Data Protection Regulations, (NDPR) by the Agency was to safeguard the right of natural persons to data privacy, fostering safe conduct for transactions involving the exchange of personal data, enablement of Nigerian businesses to be globally compliant and competitive and to create jobs for Nigerians.
Mallam Abdullahi revealed this Friday while delivering the keynote address at the 6th annual conference of Institute Internal Auditors of Nigeria, (IIAN) with the theme:, “Agility and Resilience” which was held on zoom conference platform.
The Conference aimed at preparing participants across Internal Audits, Internal Controls, risk management, revenue and Government assurance and other business professionals to learn how to leverage on new technologies and procedures towards actualisation of the organisation’s goals and objectives.
The NITDA DG who was represented Director e-Government Development and Regulations, Dr Vincent Olatunji stated that since inception of the Agency in 2001, it has been playing a catalytic roles to spur the infusion of technology into nation’s work processes reiterating that the Agency plays “critical roles in capacity development, provision of working tools for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
“NITDA also has an existing arrangement with the office of the Auditor General of the Federation to aid the office in the discharge of its activities.”
Mallam Abdullahi said, “The Nigeria Data Protection Regulation (NDPR) was issued on 25th January, 2020 by my predecessor, DrIsa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.
“As part of his think-tank then, our thinking was that Nigeria needed to quickly provide a regulatory framework for the processing of personal data.
“This was even more pertinent in consideration of the global implications of non-performance.
“Businesses where losing bids because investors felt there was no data privacy regime in Nigeria.
“The Agency’s implementation of the NDPR has been innovative and impact oriented. For the first time in data protection implementation, auditors became recognised as Data Protection Compliance Organisations (DPCO)”.
He maintained that NITDA has 72 licensed DPCOs among which are members of this “august body,” adding that “this posture is not as a result of lack of professionals in the IT industry, rather, we have made conscious efforts to carry every relevant stakeholder along in our developmental regulatory strategy.
“ I hope this noble institute would repay NITDA’s generosity by imbibing ethical and professional principles on your members for better implementation of the Regulation.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, New Capital Cooperatives Society Mr. Benedict Anyalenka while commending the organisers of the conference affirmed that data privacy and protection should be a requisite skill needed for development of the Information Technology Sector as it would create platform for protection of information against unauthorized usage.
Anyalenka, however, called for proper awareness on the importance of data privacy among organisations and stakeholders across the country to safeguard citizens’ data.
FG Reveals Plans to Deploy Technology in the Health Sector
As part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government of Nigeria has announced plans to deploy information and communications technology (ICT) in the country’s health sector.
This is part of the plans to achieve transparency and accountability in health care delivery across the country.
Dr. Ngozi R. C. Azodoh, director, Special Projects, Federal Ministry of Health, who represented Osagie Emmanuel Ehanire, Honourable Minister of Health, revealed this while speaking at MTN Nigeria’s Revv Programme masterclass on Thursday, September 17, 2020 .
The virtual session themed ‘Bridging the healthcare divide through technology and partnerships’ had in attendance health sector experts including Chief Executive Officer, Hygeia HMO Limited, Obinnia Abajue; Chief Operations Officer and Co-Founder, Afya Care, Kola Oni; Managing Director, Ingress Health Partners, Dr. Orode Doherty and Chief Executive Officer, Tremendoc Limited, Ugochukwu Chikezie. The session was moderated by the General Manager, Business Development, MTN Nigeria, Omotayo Ojulatayo.
According to Azodoh, the federal government has put structures in place to utilise ICT as part of efforts to standardise the healthcare system.
“The government is working hand in hand with state governments across the country to maintain transparency and accountability, adding that ICT and other forms of electronic platforms are currently being improved and expanded following the federal government’s COVID intervention”.
She also shared that the ministry is willing to support small businesses in the sector imploring the participating SMEs to seize the opportunities provided by The Revv Programme.
“I want to ask everyone who is listening to write to the MTN Revv team and say this is one thing I want the Federal Ministry of Health to do to help my business then we can engage on how to proceed,” she enthused.
In her parting remarks, she also commended MTN Nigeria for providing a platform for SMEs to expand their capacity. “I must commend MTN for this excellent initiative. It has been very productive for me and an opportunity to transfer knowledge.”
The Revv Programme is an initiative from MTN Nigeria to help small businesses rethink and retool their operations in order to withstand the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic using a four-pronged approach that includes masterclasses, access to market, productivity tools support and advisory initiatives.
Peace House Charity Foundation Seeks for DCTC Intervention
Mallam Kashifu InuwaAbdullahi, director general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), asserted that if we do not empower our people, they become a problem to the society in future.
He made this know on Friday while receiving a delegation from Peace House Charity Foundation,Yola who were at the Agency’s Corporate Headquarter, Abuja to seek for interventions in the areas of ICT.
The representative of the Director General, Dr. Vincent Olatunji, Director eGovernment Development and Regulation stated that one of the mandate of the Agency is the deployment of ICT infrastructure as such the Foundation’s visit at this time is very apt as the Agency is relentlessly working on the implementation of the Digital Economy strategy.
MallamAbdullahi affirmed that Agency at the moment is looking for organisations to partner with to sustain Digital Capacity Training Centres deployed across the country.
He commended the effort of the organisation in assisting orphans with not only providing basic education but also the provision of skills, mentorship and moral upbringing.
Speaking earlier, Mr Mohammad Bello, a Director with the Foundation said that the organisation was at the Agency to seek for ICT intervention and to commend NITDA’s effort in promoting ICT knowledge across the nation.
He stated that the organisation supports education for the orphans and the less privileged, promote health care delivery especially among women and children, provide sensitisation workshop for parents (mothers) on parenting and matrimonial home, promote unity and encourage self-reliance among the populace.
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