The news that Legislators in Abuja want to put a stop to unsolicited calls and texts from telecoms company took me by surprise.This is the sort of news Nigerians are always hoping to hear from our lawmakers. It shows they are really in touch with the dynamics of the society.
According to various online sites like this one, a bill for an act to reduce incidences of unsolicited calls and texts passed its second reading in the green chamber of Nigeria’s legislature. The purpose of the bill is clearly to enact laws that would punish telecoms companies for taking advantage of subscribers.
The sponsor of the bill, Hon. Aliyu Madaki from Kano State said the bill would
-provide legal framework to stop the unwholesome practice of sending unsolicited calls and texts, and ringtones to subcribers
-stop online telemarketing except a subscriber agrees to it
-empower subscribers to seek redress before a high court
Apparently, there is no legislation in place to stop this practice or to punish errant telecoms company on behalf of subscribers. The Speaker of the House then referred the bill to the House Committee on Telecommunications for further action.
For what it is worth, many Nigerians need this bill to be passed into law ASAP. Those unsolicited calls and texts are really irritating. I remember being woken up in the middle of the night by a text message notification. Thinking it was something important, I scrambled to open the text only to see a message from a short code number advising me on how best to use natural fertilizers for my farm. You can see how that sort of message can be annoying on several levels. I promptly called customer care and told them off with some choice words. And I know for a fact there are many subscribers whose tales of woes makes mine look like licking an ice cream.
Remember, I said I was surprised by the news? This is why. As far as the telecoms sector is concerned, there is a regulatory agency, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) whose duty also include punishing erring companies and looking out for subscribers.
If NCC were doing their job properly, would there be a need for a bill like that? I thought since the NCC is failing to carry out its statutory function, the legislature should have called NCC to explain why they (NCC) should not be sanctioned. On the other hand, the NCC act could be strengthened to give more teeth to the commission. This new bill from the Rep Aliyu Madaki stems from ignorance of how things work. I am surprised it even scaled the second reading. No law or act can come out of that bill as long as we have the NCC.
This brings me nicely to the idea of seeking redress from the high court. Right now, there is nothing stopping any Nigerian from suing any telecoms company if they feel their rights are being violated. Even the Consumer Protection Council can act on behalf of an aggrieved subscriber. Basically, making new laws is not the issue here. If our institutions start acting responsibly, there won’t be any need making new laws against unsolicited calls and texts.
photo credit: 247ureports.com; dailypost.ng