There can only be a little doubt about the revolution which the Global System of Mobile communication (GSM) has brought about in interpersonal relationships in the world. And Nigeria is no exception.
So fundamentally profound has been the influence of the system that for the teeming population of its subscribers in Nigeria, possibly none of them can even remember again how they conducted their lives 14 years ago, prior to its introduction into the country’s social life.
With an array of possibilities and other advantages in terms of access to information which facilitate decision making processes, offering more practicable alternatives to different lifestyles and relationships, the GSM has also opened up fresher and more effective portals for various human transactions that hitherto only existed in the imaginations of science fiction authors.
The impact of the GSM on the economy has also been phenomenal, expanding the possibilities in the service sector and buoying both its employment potential and the country’s GDP. When the Corporate Social Responsibility of the various bodies that have sprouted from the GSM seed is factored into the general assessment of its experience, it can be tempting to conclude that its savour is indeed wholesome.
Until a critical view of the sector is taken, that is, the GSM in the hands of the service providers in Nigeria could as well have been a weapon, a troglodyte’s club sometimes wielded with solicitous savagery at the purse of their customers. If the service for which they have been licensed fails, as it usually does, their scurrilous invasion of their customers’ privacy have always been ruthlessly efficient.
Nigerian subscribers to telecom services have always been inundated with calls from the service providers, enlisting their patronage of phoney products, the costs of which are invariably charged to their accounts. Usually the calls are made by prompted and recorded voices sometimes from phone numbers that look regular. The unwary subscriber picks the calls thinking they are from normal callers only to hear recorded machines at the other end and to find that a bill has already been posted.
For the most part, these calls are irritating distractions from or interruptions of the subscribers’ already loaded daily chores. There are also unsolicited text messages that are regularly despatched through the service providers’ networks propositioning their subscribers to buy all sorts of services ranging from caller tunes to benedictions from various famous pastors and other clerics. It is quite offensive and in poor taste that not even prayers are exempt from the crass commercialisation that dominates the operations of the service providers.
It is, however, curious that both the National Communications Commission (NCC) and the Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) have not deemed it fit to regulate the telecom sector and protect the consumer from this abuse of access on the part of the service providers. It is because the subscribers to these telecom services have become vulnerable through their subscription that the service providers can invade their privacy without any hindrance.
It should ordinarily occur to the NCC that the indecent intrusions should be controlled, especially because the consequences border on exploitation when the customers are billed for calls made from numbers that look real and picking the calls is assumed to be an automatic acquiescence on the part of the subscriber.
Such behaviours certainly do not tally with international best practices and truth is that usually the money taken from the subscribers adds up to a huge total, giving the impression of a grand corporate conspiracy to fleece the unsuspecting subscribers and this seems to be peculiar to Nigeria. Much as the GSM represents a breakthrough in facilitating relationships, the operators’ practices have left so much to be desired by their desperation for inordinate profit.
The subscribers should be shielded from their cravings by the regulatory bodies and the parliament. As it is presently, there is a misgiving that the regulators have been bought by the service providers with free packages to look the other way as the providers milk unsuspecting subscribers through caller tunes, prayers for sale, even when the main services for which they have been licensed are less than satisfactory.
The fact that the subscribers are already captivated does not license the network providers to freely intrude into their privacy all in the name of doing business without ethics and making immense but unconscionable profit.