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Don’t Dare Our Country, Senate President Warns Multichoice, Others

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President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan yesterday warned Multichoice Nigeria – DSTV, GoTv and others not to dare Nigeria by going ahead to hike the tariffs of its products while the matter is being investigated.

Inaugurating a seven-member adhoc committee of the senate headed by the deputy chief whip, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, the Senate President warned that no foreign operators in the country should take Nigeria for granted.

Senate president’s spokesman, Ola Awoniyi, in a statement, said the committee was set up by the Senate on Wednesday, 30th March, 2022 against the backdrop of an announcement of tariff hike by the Multichoice pay TV service provider, DStv.

This is as a three-man Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCP) tribunal sitting in Abuja has adjourned hearing on its jurisdiction to entertain the matter brought against MultiChoice Nigeria to 5 May. The tribunal made the adjournment on Monday, following a complaint by Festus Onifade, a lawyer, and Coalition of Consumers of Nigeria that MultiChoice had violated the tribunal’s 30 March interim order that the pay television company should revert to old prices.

The Senate president, Lawan said, “No operator should take us for granted. We mean business. We want you to be here. Nigeria always provides the climate for you to do your businesses but don’t abuse the laws of our country. Our consumers here are people who are innocent and we are prepared to protect them.”

“Meanwhile, stay action. No increase. No increase. And that is to say don’t dare our country. No increase in tariffs,” the senate president warned.

Lawan explained the rationale behind the setting up of the committee: “The reason for setting up this adhoc committee is well known and this is in consistent with what we are supposed to do as members of parliament, as distinguished senators.

“When the legitimate interests of our people are threatened, we are supposed to ensure that we protect them.

“It has been the practice of many companies, especially foreign companies operating in Nigeria to treat the Nigerian consumers in a different way and manner that is not consistent with global best practices.

“I’m not going to preempt the outcome of this investigation but one thing is clear, that the Senate is prepared to go all the way to unearth the exact situation that is happening with respect to how much Nigerian consumers of the DStv or Pay-TV tariffs are charged and how does that compare to other jurisdictions in other countries.

“DStv, one of the operators, has shown the tendency to increase the tariffs without due consultation with stakeholders and we feel this is not the right way to go about it and therefore we even need to find out whether or not what we are paying already is not out of the roof and different from what other countries are charged.

“So your task as a committee is to look at the issue very dispassionately with a very clear mind and focus on what we need to know.

“The Consumers Protection Council and other agencies of government and even NGOs and CSOs are supposed to attend this kind of investigation. We need to know what roles actually such government Institutions established for the purposes of protecting Nigerian consumers perform. What are their problems if they are not doing well.

“The report, at the end of the day, is supposed to be a report that will guide the Senate to take resolutions that will ensure that Nigerian consumers of the products, Pay-TV, are fully protected but at the same time that will not emasculate the businesses. We want to see a win-win situation for both consumers and operators.

“But let me be very clear at this point, we are going to take on any operators who decide to charge Nigerians tariffs that are not charged anywhere outside this country.

“I also want to add here that any operators, especially foreign, who doesn’t want to respect and obey our laws should leave. Afterall, it is only in this country that most of these operators behave the way they do, whether they are telecoms or DStv or whatever.

“In other climes, they do better. They respect the consumers. They respect the laws of the countries where they operate. It is only in Nigeria where they don’t give us any respect and I think we will take them on.

“I pray that they do the right thing so that they will not run into any trouble of fighting the injustice. What happened in the past should provide us lessons and issues that we should look at.

“Infact if Nigerian consumers were extraordinarily cheated, they should be paid back. They do that in other countries. So I hope that all operators will cooperate with this committee. That when they are invited to appear before the committee they will appear.”

Earlier, the Chairman of the committee, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi said “the investigation into the activities of the Pay-TV service providers is long overdue as their activities, over time has reaped off Nigerians of their hard earned income.

“It is mind burgling that barely two years of the price hike by the Multichoice which was followed by a big uproar by Nigerians, comes another unexpected increment without proper consultation with critical stakeholders.

“This incessant hike in tariff without recourse to constituted authourities is a thing of great concern that calls for questioning.

“This investigation is an opportunity to right the wrongs and bring this service providers to operate within the confines of the law as obtainable outside the shores of the country.”

Meanwhile, on the issue of jurisdiction, MultiChoice’s lawyers, quoting a series of legal authorities, had countered the submission that the company was in violation of the tribunal’s order, having challenged the jurisdiction of the tribunal on 31 March.

They argued that the next course of action by the tribunal is to hear the application challenging its jurisdiction. The FCCPC, second respondent in the matter, also agreed with the submission by MultiChoice’s lawyers that the next step is the hearing on the company’s application on jurisdiction.

The tribunal, in its ruling, agreed and adjourned the matter to 5 May for hearing of the application on jurisdiction.

Onifade, a legal practitioner and Coalition of Nigeria Consumers, on behalf of himself and others, had on 30 March, prayed the tribunal for an order restraining MultiChoice from increasing the prices of its services, effective 1 April, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice filed on March 30. The tribunal granted the ex-parte motion, directing parties to maintain status quo ante bellum, which prompted the 31 March challenge to its jurisdiction by MultiChoice.

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