Nigeria: ATCON Criticises NCC’s Instruction To Disconnect Indebted Network Operators

Following the directive given by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) to have a number of networks disconnected due to the inability to settle infrastructure and interconnect debts, key members of the industry have expressed that in their opinion, this is not the best resolution available to the regulator to sort out this industry crisis.

The Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON)'s President, Olusola Teniola noted that this issue of indebtedness had built up over 15 years and previous attempts to solve the problem by disconnecting networks had not worked. He called for the implementation of an automated settlement scheme for all members of the telecom industry in Nigeria as a way out of this situation.

Teniola said that under an automated settlement scheme all operators would be advised to deposit a percentage of their daily recharge card sales into a specified settlement account to be used monthly to handle their facility and interconnect obligations.
ATCON felt that this would ensure that every month there would be an automated payment of all facility and interconnects charges that are due.
Operators with long-standing debts would be made to put aside a higher percentage until those legacy debts were paid off.
This way, in no more than 12 months all legacy debts would have been cleared with no new debts having being added.

When contacted, one of the operators affected by the NCC’s instruction wondered why the NCC would put them on the list of upcoming list disconnections when there was no evidence to prove that they had been paid by the network operators that owed them money as well.
He stated that interconnect operators don’t collect money from their subscribers and that it is only when they have received payments from their originating network, that payment can be sent to the terminating networks.
The operator said that this had been explained To the NCC and evidence had been presented to prove that the originating networks had not paid operators.
He said that in response to their plight the NCC just told them also to begin a disconnection process and disconnect those originating networks that owed them money.

In the operator’s opinion, this would not solve the problem as there was no guarantee that operators would ever be paid by the originating networks even if they were to initiate a disconnection process.

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