By Adekoya Boladale
The Yoruba have a saying: ‘ agilinti ti nse ginniginni, iku apaa, ambelente opolo to fi ojojumo gbe ara re sanle’ – a chameleon that threads with caution dies, how much more the toad that hops around with much energy.
The recent report on the move by the Nigerian Communications Company (NCC), acting on the order from the Federal Government, to compel telecommunications companies to increase the rate they charge for data subscription is the latest dish of agony in the oven of the Buhari-led Presidency. There is no gainsaying the fact that what we currently have as a democratic government is merely a revised edition of the inglorious military rule. The cardinal points that differentiate dictatorship from democratic governance have since left the corridors of Aso Rock, taking with it the keys to the room of rule of law, human dignity, lawfulness and morality. Nepotism, totalitarianism and fascism now reign supreme.
The alleged excuse that Nigeria has the lowest data rate in Africa as reason for the government-backed coup against the masses is not only fallacious but nonsensical, irrational, illogical and outright wickedness.
For the record, 1GB (Gigabyte) in Tanzania cost just $0.9, in Egypt, it is $2.80, in Mozambique, it is $2.9, in Uganda, it is $3.60, in Ghana, it is $3.90, in Guinea, it is $4.00, in Rwanda, it is $4.00, in Sudan, it is $4.30, in Tunisia, it is $4.80 while Nigeria presently operates at $5.00. In Russia, $3 will get you an unlimited data service, Sri Lanka, $10 will get you same. In Malaysia, $11 gives you 3GB of data while in Indonesia, $18 gives you an unlimited access to data service. In France, 50GB cost around $25, in United Kingdom, £17will get you unlimited access to data service, in India, it is $2.80 to 1GB.
Taking comparison as the basis for this argument, minimum wage per month in Egypt is $174, Gabon pays $155, in Guinea, it is $62, war ravaged Sudan pays $70, Tunisia pays $220 while Nigeria pays $38. Russia pays €100 per month, Sri Lanka is $70.75, and Malaysia pays around $205. In Indonesia, it is between $82 and $332. In France, it is €1,466. In India, it is $190.
In spite of what we currently view as the cheap cost of data service, a report by PwC stated that only 43% of the world population can afford 500 megabytes of data per month. According to Strategy and Connecting the World report in May 2016, Nigeria is expected to reduce the cost of its data service by 97% as the current rate is not in tandem with the gross monthly income of the country.
The upward review of the data price by over 300% is not only ill conceived but an economic harakiri. Studies have shown that when there is an unceremonious increase in the price of non-consummable goods, there is bound to be a sharp decline in demand. With the telecommunication companies contributing a whopping N1.8 trillion which represents a total of 10% to the Gross Domestic Product, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the revenue drive of the industry, which is mobile data, is expected to fall drastically now.
The power of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), as a regulatory agency in a free market economy, is to drive competition, low prices, encourage innovation and most importantly, protect the consumer. According to Ifeanyi Uddin (2016), “the NCC has just shredded its credentials as a regulator’’.
For those who are quick to absolve the President of the new draconian regulation against the masses and seeing it as a supposed overzealousness of his appointees, such class of individuals should be enlightened that over 15 million Nigerians did not vote for the Dambazzaus, the Abba Kyaris, the Shittus and their likes.
Nigerians defied all odds to vote Buhari into office, trusting him not only to lead right but make decisions that will benefit the masses and be bold enough to accept responsibilities. We have had enough of buck passing from this government.
You blame aides for padded budget, blame the previous government for recession, blame aides for speech plagiarism, blame politicians for Niger Delta and terrorism, blame militants for epileptic power supply, blame local bureau d’ change Mallam for high exchange rate, blame intolerance (nee blasphemy) for mindless killings, blame citizens for eating too much, hence the high price of foods. One is then forced to ask if you are truly in charge of your ‘change’ government.
Maybe President Buhari does not understand the importance of citizens having easy access to internet data. Apart from the fact that it drives innovation, connect and help build a generation of more enlightened people while aiding research, it has effectively kept the masses at bay as they now find it more convenient to vent their anger and frustration against the government online rather than take to the street. If this plug is removed, then it is only a matter of time before anarchy reigns supreme.
One of the numerous reasons that led to the fall of Gaddafi wasn’t because his government was less beneficial to the masses rather because his administration lost touch with the citizens and even for Gaddafi, he fell!
Boladale is on Twitter @adekoyabee