MTN, free airtime and phone abusers

 By Casmir Igbokwe

 Published: Sunday, 15 Jun 2008

I GOT a queer text message from a reader of this column last Sunday. It reads: “I love you, from the Deputy Governor of Lagos State. Call me for further details. This is my number: 07057410198.” Knowing that the Deputy Governor of Lagos is a woman, I first alerted my wife about the suspicious message. Together, we agreed to call the number. We tried many times. But the owner permanently diverted all calls to voicemail, without giving any allowance to drop a message.

I believe that the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Sarah Sosan, will not want to send a message in that fashion. When contacted, one of her aides could not identify the number as madam’s. I wanted to expose some other funny messages I have received from readers to keep your Sunday lively. Unfortunately, phone thieves stole my two phones last Wednesday night.

The incident happens to be the second I have experienced this year. The first time was in February on the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway by Dopemu Bridge. It was along a traffic jam. This second one was at Orelope and Idimu Road intersection at Egbeda area of Lagos. The pattern was the same. A young man would emerge from nowhere and tap you, saying some senseless things to distract your attention. His partner in crime will stretch his hand from the passenger’s side and take your phone. I never ever imagined that I would fall a victim the second time. I became less security conscious because there was no hold-up since it was past 10pm. The incident happened just as I slowed down at Orelope end of the road intersection.

The irony of the situation is that after the incident, the journalist in me took over. Instead of mourning the loss of my phones, I started constructing a story in my mind, a story that will best illustrate my painful losses vis-à-vis the poor phone etiquette of Nigerians and the exciting free airtime noise that MTN Nigeria Communications Limited is making of recent.

Recall that MTN came out recently with an advert, which says, “MTN excites subscribers with free airtime.” The GSM giant said it was its own way of saying “thank you” to its customers’ friendship. In a text message sent to my MTN line on Friday, June 13, the mobile phone operator further noted, “You will receive free N175 airtime on 14th June. This is MTN’s way of showing appreciation for your support and loyalty. Do enjoy it at your leisure. Thank you!”

As a Nigerian, I know that there is nothing exciting about the so-called free airtime. It happens to be a penalty the National Communications Commission mandated MTN and Celtel Nigeria to pay customers for poor services. When NCC imposed this sanction, the cost of compensation was about N4bn.

The mobile phone operators first went to court to restrain the NCC from implementing the sanction. They lost at the court. Hence, it became compulsory for them to pay the penalty. Celtel was the first to set the timetable within which it intends to pay the compensation. Then came MTN with its exciting free airtime.

The Senate Committee on Communication sees this free airtime message as deceptive. The Chairman of the Committee, Sylvester Anyanwu, reportedly said the operators had presented the sanction on them as if they were doing Nigerians a favour whereas they should be remorseful for rendering poor services. He demanded that the operators should retract the messages to reflect the true position. He also noted that the sanctions would continue pending the time operators improved their services.

The relevant question to ask at this point is: is the NCC justified in meting out this punishment to the GSM operators? Yes is my simple answer. Personally, I have had to contend with calling people only to be told “error in network connection”, “the number you have dialled is not available at the moment, please try again later”, “the number you have dialled is incorrect, please check your number and dial again,” etc. These programmed voices will continue echoing these messages, even when the number you are dialling is just in front of you.

Everywhere you go, subscribers also complain of drop calls, non-delivery of text messages and inability to recharge their lines. On at least two occasions, I have had to visit MTN friendship centre at Akowonjo, Lagos, to complain of my inability to recharge. Even after their intervention, I still had to wait for about five days for my recharge to be credited.

In all fairness to the GSM operators, they have their teething problems. Poor infrastructure, especially erratic power supply, is a major headache. But they compound the problems by selling more lines that will further congest their networks.

Out of frustration, some people dump their old lines for new ones. A report in THE PUNCH of 2 June 2008 quoted statistics from the NCC as indicating that out of about 57.72million lines connected by the four GSM operators in the country, 43.79million were active while 13.87million were dormant as at March this year.

This, perhaps, is why MTN’s current customer-focus is geared at achieving what it terms “next generation customer care.” In a recent advertised message, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Ahmad Farroukh, introduced his new Customer Relations Executive, Akin Braithwaite, and enthused that in the past nine months, the company had embarked on an aggressive network capacity expansion programme.

Since Farroukh expressed his desire to receive comments and suggestions, may I suggest that they do something about free midnight calls. I understand the free call is from 12.30am to 4.30am. Mainly students particularly find this free call very rewarding. A few days ago, a phone call from a close relation woke me up at 3.30am. Fear gripped me when I saw the call as I thought something terrible had happened. As it turned out, nothing happened. She just called to say hi. I was furious, but I later learnt that she only took advantage of MTN’s free calls.

In all, the NCC should continue to protect the interest of Nigerian consumers as it’s done in civilised societies. In India, for instance, telecom regulator, in 2001, ordered cell phone operators to compensate millions of subscribers for overcharging them. The United Kingdom’s industry’s watchdog also fined a mobile phone company, Moby Monkey, £50,000 in 2002 for sending misleading text messages to customers.

The NCC could engender more competition and better services if it could fulfil its promise to introduce number portability in the services of the GSM operators. With this service, customers can migrate from one network to another and still retain and use their numbers.

Nigerians should also learn some things about phone etiquette. What we call flashing contributes to the problems of the phone operators. If you don’t have money to call, send a text message. But not like the one who says she is Lagos Deputy Governor. If you wish to make a call, it should not be like the girl who called me last week and said, “Hello, I saw your number in the newspapers. I want to know if you have somebody who wishes to adopt a baby?” I saved her number with the name “baby seller” so that I can contact her for further details. Unfortunately, the number has gone with the thieves who stole my handsets.

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69 Comments »

  1. 1

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  2. 2
    easy edet Says:

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  3. 3
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  4. 4
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  5. 5
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  9. 9
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  10. 10
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  11. 11
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  13. 13
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  14. 14
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  15. 15
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  16. 16
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  17. 17
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  18. 18
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  19. 19

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    Muideen Says:

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  21. 21
    McSTAN Says:

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  22. 24
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  23. 26
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    • 27
      simon Says:

      I HAVE THE FREE AIRTIME CONFIGURATION SOFTWARE FOR ALL CALLS AND SMS BUT TO HAVE IT U MUST USE WHT U HAVE TO GET WHT U WANT

  24. 28

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  25. 29
    samunited Says:

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  26. 30

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  27. 31
    EddyBoy Says:

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  28. 32
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  29. 33
    segunbabs Says:

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  31. 35
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  32. 36
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  33. 37
    dr hugo banziger Says:

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  34. 38
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  35. 39
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  36. 40
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  37. 41

    […] MTN, free airtime and phone abusers June 200836 comments 3 […]

  38. 42

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  39. 43
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  40. 44
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    Sent on a phone using T9space.com

  41. 45
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  42. 46
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  43. 47
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  44. 48
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  45. 49
    ellis Says:

    i need u to send my pin code to ‘cos i’ve been barrered from chare & sell 08165006392

  46. 50
    fred Says:

    my name is fred from Uganda and i use MTN network so if any one know how to hack mtn for free credits please mail me on metfred2005@yahoo.com

  47. 51
    Barnabas Says:

    I nid 2 knw hw 2 make mtn free calls durin day

  48. 52
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  49. 53
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  50. 54
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  51. 55
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  52. 56
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  54. 58
    Xavier Says:

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  55. 59
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  57. 61
    calverpotty Says:

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    2 weeks = 15euro

    1 month=30euro

    1year=270euro

    infinity=600euro

    if you have this code it is for free call and browsing .
    so if interested please do give me a call at :07031908522

    as for the payment i will give you the full name of the cartchier which you will use for the payment: via WESTERN UNION NOR MONEYGRAM

  58. 62
    calverpotty Says:

    free call and i have just buy the code online but i am selling myn, these are the prices bellow:

    2 weeks = 15euro

    1 month=30euro

    1year=270euro

    infinity=600euro

    if you have this code it is for free call and browsing .
    so if interested please do give me a call at :07031908522.

    email:calverpotty@gmail.com

    as for the payment i will give you the full name of the cartchier which you will use for the payment: via WESTERN UNION NOR MONEYGRAM

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  63. 68
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  64. 69
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