By Emmanuel Eche-Ofun John
The cyberspace and mainstream media have been awash with news of the face-off between National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and MultiChoice Digital Satellite Television over planned tariff hikes by the latter. MultiChoice had announced an upward review of prices on its DSTV and GOTV packages by 17%, with effect from May 1, 2023. The announcement was made through text messages sent to its subscribers.
According to trending report, NANS has issued a 7-day ultimatum to MultiChoice to reverse the planned tariffs hike and also yield to the call of Nigerians by implementing pay-as-you-view tariffs or face mass action. The students body reportedly threatened to shut down MultiChoice offices nationwide if the planned price hikes is not reversed and the pay-per-view model is not introduced.
This is not the first time MultiChoice is drawing the wrath of Nigerians over reckless billings. You will recall that the senator representing Benue South Senatorial District, Comrade Abba Patrick Moro, moved a motion on the floor of the Senate on 30th March, 2022, calling on the Senate to call Pay-TV service providers to order over incessant price hikes.
The motion titled, “HIKED TARIFF; NIGERIANS DUMBFOUNDED, OUTRAGED OVER PAY-TV TARIFF HIKES, DEMAND FOR PAY-PER-VIEW SUBSCRIPTION MODEL”, sought to compel Pay-TV service providers to introduce a pay-per-view model of subscription as against the month-to-month prepaid currently in place.
In the motion, Senator Moro expressed displeasure over tariff hikes and price increases by the service providers on their bouquets. He stated that MultiChoice willfully and perpetually increased the cost of its bundles and asked the Senate to step in and save Nigerians from the high-level insensitivity of the company.
The Senator lamented that despite the economic situation of the country, MutltiChoice continued to raise its bundles, he requested that rather than paying fixed rates for packages monthly, the company should introduce a subscription model that allows subscribers to pay per-view, to enable them match their TV consumption to subscription as it is the case with electricity metering and mobile
In a unanimous resolution, the Senate urged the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, and the Nigerian Communications Commission to direct all pay-tv providers to introduce a pay-per-view model or subscription as against the month-to-month prepaid model presently in place and directed all pay-tv service providers in the country to immediately review their bouquet prices downwards in tandem with the prevailing reality of the economic situation in the country.
The unanimous resolution was followed by a Public Hearing held on September 22, 2022, to get feedbacks from stakeholders and Nigerians. The Public Hearing, which was chaired by Senator (Dr) Abdullahi Aliyu Sabi, was to further investigate the incessant increase with a view to finding lasting solution to the problem.
At the Hearing, while majority of the speakers spoke in favor of the Motion, some people shockingly spoke in favor of MultiChoice. I mean ‘ordinary’ Nigerians. A particular group that claimed to represent the ‘Nigerian masses’ openly declared support for the tariff hikes, citing ‘high costs of running business in the country’ as its reason for the shameful position. Asked if the group held any town hall meeting where members arrived at the resolution presented, the representative of the group responded incoherently and went mute.
It is more than a year that Senator Moro raised the alarm yet nothing has been done about it and we are, regrettably, where we are today, still talking about the mindless tariff hikes by Pay-Tv service providers.
Now that NANS has woken up to the challenge and lending its voice to the voice of Senator Moro and the 9th Senate, it’s hopeful that the agitation is sustained and supported by all well-meaning Nigerians, to put to an end to these throat-cutting billings and pay-as-you-go model that only leave sour grapes in the mouth of Nigerians. NANS should know that they are fighting for majority of Nigerians and must not succumb to intimidation, blackmail, mouth-watering offers or anything that can put a clog in their wheel. Most Nigerians are behind them.
As for Senator Abba Moro, he is a Nostradamus, he sees tomorrow. He saw today yesterday and raised the alarm, unfortunately he does not have the constitutional powers to implement resolutions of the Senate. To him, true representation is knowing the needs of the people and addressing those needs promptly, either in one’s personal capacity or at the Senate level. This he will continue to do; to be the voice of his constituents and Nigerians in general.
The Executive is enjoined to complement the efforts of the National Assembly by implementing and enforcing resolutions by the lawmakers, such collaborative efforts would go a long way to address some of the challenges being faced by Nigerians. If the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had acted in accordance with the resolutions of the Senate, this issue would have long been forgotten.
Emmanuel Eche-Ofun John, Special Assistant (New Media) to Senator Abba Moro, writes from Abuja.