Teddy Nwanunobi, Abuja
Senate on Wednesday directed its committees on Information, and Trade and Investment to investigate the alleged unwholesome practices by the Multichoice Nigeria, owners of the Digital Satellite Television (DSTV) pay television, and report back within four weeks.
The committees were also directed to consider summoning the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Consumer Protection Council (CPC).
Consequently, the committees were mandated to organise a public hearing for all the stakeholders, including relevant civil societies to foster a way forward.
These were sequel to a motion sponsored by Senator Isah Hamma Misau, and entitled: concern on unwholesome practices by Multichoice Nigeria (DSTV).
Leading debates on the motion, Misau noted that Multichoice Nigeria engages in negative and unhealthy trade practices because of its dominance of the Nigerian satellite television market.
Misau pointed out that DSTV has constantly been in the news over one legal battle after another from aggrieved subscribers, who are dissatisfied with the programming service and unreasonable subscription hikes across their various bouquets, which have led to growing public complains and petitions.
“This motion is of public interest, a lot of football loving Nigerians follow the English Premier League (EPL) on DSTV, with the company enjoying the monopoly of broadcast in the country. The complaints include: arbitrary increase in the subscription charges, refusal to adopt the pay as you use model applicable in other climes, where Multichoice operates , moving major games from low subscription bouquets (compact) to high subscription bouquets (premium); poor service delivery and absence of toll free lines for customers’ complaints amongst others,” he said.
Misau, who noted that many Nigerians are aggrieved and in constant demand to stop DSTV’s arbitrary price hikes, added that recent increase in DSTV subscription is outrageous and totally unacceptable.
“Following the high number of complaints, the CPC commenced investigation into the operations of the DSTV, operated by Multichoice Nigeria Limited over alleged consumer rights violation in line with its mandate to provide redress for consumer abuse,” he added.
He, therefore, urged the Red Chamber to intervene with a view to addressing the perceived high handedness of the pay TV company, as well as ensure that the regulatory agencies of government are made to be alive to their responsibilities.
In his contribution, the Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Ibn Na’Allah, pointed out that the significance of the motion was to bring to fore the level of comfort those in government had afforded companies in the country to exercise unlimited monopoly in the provision of services to Nigerians.
“Now, DSTV today appears to the laid down monopoly and therefore are using it to the fullest include monthly subscription – whether you watch the programme or not, the money is gone; and one begins to wonder what the money is for, Is it the rate of services you rendered or having access to DSTV?
“The answer is that it cannot be either of the two; rather, we have found ourselves in the situation where certain people position themselves for a business in such a manner as you need them exclusive monopoly. This does not help any growing economy in any country, and I think the moral courage to reverse this situation in the overall interest of Nigeria rests with this Senate.
“That is why this motion must be commended at this critical time of our development. It is equally important that we support this motion because when we say change, it is change in every spheres of our lives.
“People must not be allowed to take what is not due to them, irrespective of where they operate. People must operate within the laws of the country, and Nigerians must be protected on the way and manner people operate their businesses in this country. So, the exclusivity that is enjoyed by most of this companies is what the Senate is under obligation to look at it solidly for the purpose of protecting our citizens,” Na’Allah said.
Senator Olanrewaju Tejuosho, who rose to oppose the motion, argued that no Nigerian company has attempted to offer this same service, and was denied.
“I can recall some companies offering this service earlier on – I don’t want to mention the names; but they failed. Secondly, the service they offered is a luxury service. It is not compulsory for every Nigerian to watch DSTV. We have the free TV stations that are not asking for subscription,” he said.
In his submission, the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, expressed concern on the inability of the CPC to do something when Nigerians are exploited upon by so many companies and service providers.
“A lot of companies and service providers are exploiting Nigerians everyday, including in the power sector, where we pay for electricity we don’t have the energy, and for banks – everyday, they are cutting their money for one service or the other, and nothing is done about it, and it is still going on.
“We need to ensure that the CPC should live up to their responsibilities and it is important for Nigerians to know their rights so that they would be able to complain when they are exploited and then they are able to get some relief when they complain. When this exploitation happen we would be able to see. I will like to see us tailor our concern towards getting the CPC and other relevant agencies to do their work,” he said.
In his remarks, the Senate President, Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki, tasked the committees to ensure that the CPC played the role it should play in ensuring that the rights of Nigerians are always protected.
“I think the motion just goes beyond, as the DSP said, beyond the issue of DSTV. I think was talking about protecting the Nigerians rights in the issue of services whether particularly this being an example.
“We must pay our role to ensure that we protect Nigerians and ensure that the best global practices are what is happening in our own country. So, I would want the committees, as directed, to look into the matter, particularly to ensure that the CPC played the role they should play in ensuring that the rights of Nigerians are always protected,” Saraki concluded.