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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The following article is an opinion article by Somtoo Okoye, the founder of Somtoo Okoye blog.
By now you must have heard that GSM companies are reviewing the prices of their data services upwards by December 1 2016. You must have wondered why this sudden development is coming in a time where data services locally and globally were moving towards rock bottom prices. Well, here is your answer.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) told data companies to increase their data prices.

According to a source at Etisalat Nigeria,
"We further gathered that the Federal Government took the decision having discovered that data rates are very low-priced in Nigeria, compared to other countries, including nearby African countries.

"The government might have also taken the decision given that Nigerian subscribers have been kicking against the proposed nine per cent Communication Tax, whose bill is currently in the National Assembly."

A source at MTN Nigeria added:
"What this means is that MTN, Airtel, Etisalat And Globacom will increase their data rates as from December 1, 2016. A data plan of N1,000 for 1.5 Gigabytes will now be increased to N3,000 at N1,000 per 500 Megabytes."
 Well, let me tell you the cause of data price hike in the Nigerian communication industry. On Saturday 5th November 2016, the Federal Government said that social media is "sabotaging Buhari’s efforts" (you can Google that).

According to Information minister Lai Mohammed who spoke at a Colloquium organized by the National Coalition of Apostolic Leaders in Lagos that day:
"Everyday, this group of people deliberately distort our messages while also suffusing the atmosphere with their own version of information,

"We are aware that it is not just enough to do something, you must be seen to be doing it. In other words, the activities of government are as important as communicating them. That is why this Administration places much premium on communicating with the people."
Interestingly, at the 4th Commonwealth Public Relations Congress also held in Lagos on 20 November 2016, minister Mohammed again lamented over how the use of social media is a "nightmare" to PR and image makers like himself and his clients, President Muhammadu Buhari.

He said:
"Today, anyone with access to a smart phone can put out any information, whether accurate or not, that could go viral in minutes.

"No fact-checking, no accuracy, no fairness, no rules. They just spread whatever information catches their fancy, and they have their own public that believes them."
By now, it was clear that the Federal Government was seeking for a way to kill, or at least reduce the quantity of activities and influence of social media.
Days later, Nigerians got the information via their respective data operators that the NCC has forced them to increase data prices from December 1.

This is the fastest way the President Muhammadu Buhari-led FG deemed possible to harm social media, the same tool they rode its propaganda machine to get elected about 20 months ago.
The Federal Government thinks it's possible to silence its "poor" critics on social media by hiking data prices and reducing their Internet usage, thereby, creating an enabling environment for the "rich" class (who purportedly won't criticize them) to use social media alone.

We are watching.
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