An epic battle between the federal government of Nigeria and all the telecom operators in the country is imminent if the government fails to improve on the supply of electricity in the country in the next 20 months.
Last week, the Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (Atcon), the umbrella body of all the telecom operators in the country, issued a deadline of December 2013 to the federal government to improve on the power supply "or we meet in court to press for damages," they said.
Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu, president of Atcon, said the new move has become imperative in view of the colossal sum of money spent on the operation of generators for all their base stations in the country. At the moment, telephone operators use 25 million litres of diesel monthly to fuel 20,000 generators located at over 15,000 cell sites in the country.
At a current pump price of N153 per litre of diesel, they spend N3.82 billion to fuel their generators monthly, with projection of spending N45.9 billion this year alone. "The implication of this stares us in the face because the operators would have no other option than to increase the cost of making calls in the country," he said. "The development would also reduce the quality of service drastically for consumers of telecommunications services."
Omo Ettu noted that over the years, Nigerians have watched the situation of power supply in the country go from bad to worse despite the fact that the country budgets huge amount of money for power development in the country every year.
"The damage that inadequate electricity has done deserves that we all mark power reform managers closely," he said, "so that we are able to put them on their toes and ensure we get return on the huge investment we make on power generation in the country."
He also recommended the development of an enforceable service level agreement between providers and consumers of telecom services so as to ensure that both parties get satisfaction from their relationship.
Omo-Ettu also noted that the time has come for the individual consumer to assert his/her right to seek redress whenever such right is trampled upon by any operator, adding that most Nigerian users are careless about the way they go about such issue when the need arises. "The attitude of the consumer must shift from nonchalance to serious concern about the quality of service they get from their investment," he said.
There are strong indications that government's promise to improve power supply by December to a significant level may not be realistic based on the current level of supply. In the last few months, there has been noticeable decline even as government is known to have been talking so much about its commitment to power supply as a way of reducing the cost of doing business in the country. Virtually all commodities have now had their prices hiked as a result of biting fuel costs.
Further investigations reveal that more companies may follow the lead of Atcon if power generation continues to threaten their businesses as several groups still believe that the government is not sincere with its promises on power sector reforms since the last five years.
Telecoms companies appear to have been most hit by the worsening power situation since they've had to spend considerably more on private power generation arrangement in order to provide cutting-edge communication services.