Nigeria will be implementing an interesting method for getting its local telcos to provide quality service; the country has announced that it will throw executives from non-performing telecommunications service providers in prison. It may sound a little extreme, but the government is saying that the local infrastructure has deteriorated too much and it has had enough of their excuses.
Mobile phone adoption across Africa has exploded over the last few years, and the huge number of users has been taxing the limited cellular infrastructure. Consumers have been complaining of dropped calls and network congestion; both of which are so bad that users are paying for an usable service. Nigeria’s Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has received the approval of the government to impose prison sentences on the heads of these telcos, although there was no mention of how long these sentences may be.
This latest measure is the last straw as the CPC tries to fix the failing networks. Previous measures involved banning telcos from signing up new accounts until they improved their networks. At the heart of the problem is a price war between existing companies, which has driven prices down and made owning a mobile phone a very affordable prospect for all Nigerians.
“In order to enforce consumer rights and ensure compliance with CPC’s enabling law, CPC has adopted a strategy of criminal prosecution of recalcitrant businesses or litigations (sic) to achieve satisfactory redress,” said Dupe Atoki, CPC director general in a statement.
Nigeria is not the only African nation to impose criminal charges on telcos for failing to deliver stable networks. Tanzania and Zimbabwe are already dragging telco executives to court for underperforming, with Zimbabwe imposing a six month jail term should they be found guilty. It is still too early to tell if this measure will improve the quality of service in Nigeria, but it certainly is an interesting idea.