The privatization of telecommunications in Nigeria is indeed a blessing.
Recollect that before privatization, it was inconceivable that house-helps, mechanics and most artisans in general would have mobile telephones. But alas!, that is the order of the day right now. If for nothing else, we should give credit to the government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for blazing this trail.
With privatization also came competition and eventual lowering of prices and gradual increased quality. I recollect that when i bought my first line from MTN when it was the only private telecom operator that had opened shop, i had to pay about =N=30000. Now, the same line goes for just =N=100 and even sometimes given for free during promotions.
I also recollect the relatively low quality of mobile phones at the time. I bought a mobile phone (alkatel) with a protruding antenna, which is inconceivable now.
What of tariff charges? It was something else then unlike now when it is quite affordable for all and sundry.
It has now become the rule rather than an exception to own a mobile phone and business can only be imagined being carried out without a mobile phone.
I recollect the harrowing experiences of the past when Nigerian Tecommunications (NITEL) was the only telecommunications provider in Nigeria. Being government owned also compounded its problems. Only a few elites mostly in highly commercial cities of Nigeria such as Lagos, Kaduna and Kano (Abuja was non-existent then) were lucky to have these “luxury”. It was a case of “man know man” to possess it then. When these lines went bad, we had to visit “medieval ages” to start “tracing lines” which could take days. NITEL did not know the number of its actual subscribers and lines “crossed and jammed” at will with many people eavesdropping into others’ private conversations.
I also recollect “tapping” of lines, where if you were unlucky, you will be handed down a bill you actually never used/consumed. Lagos Island was rife with such fraudulent activities where resulting therefrom, you could make international calls at then ridiculously low prices. The touts who operated these centres from the proceeds of “tapping” others’ phone lines, were occasionally raided by the police.
Another scenario i cannot forget, was my frequent visits to then NITEL headquarters on Broad Street to communicate with relatives and business associates abroad. You had to wait on a long queue to make calls in NITEL phone booths. Often, you were not lucky to get through or at best you had to be shouting at the top of your voice or witness others do that, just to be heard by the parties abroad.
Thieves had a field day operating. All they had to do was cut a few phone lines in the very few places where they existed and the citizenry was thrown into incommunicado while they unleashed mayhem.
Security under the military also had its fair share, as coup plotters made it a point of duty to cut phone lines in strategic places, to thwart any attempts to rally round against the coup.
All that is now history and with it we witness the disappearance into oblivion of many telecommunication devices such as telex, cable and even now fax is about becoming obsolete.
All hail the privatization of telecoms in Nigeria ! We welcome more innovations in this all important sector of the Nigerian economy.