The Federal Government has warned mobile telecommunication providers to treat Nigerians with decency and play by the rules or face sanctions.
The Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu, gave the warning in a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Victor Oluwadamilare, in Abuja on Wednesday.
The statement was issued shortly after the minister met with top officials of MTN Nigeria Communications Limited behind closed doors.
Shittu decried the manner Nigerians, especially women, were being treated by telecommunications operators in their bid to comply with the directive issued by the Nigerian Communications Commission on the registration of Subscriber Identification Module cards.
The statement read in part, “The minister’s office has been inundated with several complaints from Nigerians, particularly women in veil, about the way they were being treated, sometimes humiliated by the workers of the telecommunications companies nationwide.
“According to some of the complaints, ‘Women in purdah dresses were requested to remove their veils in the public, despite the request by such women that a place should be provided out of the public glare for only female officials to attend to them, adding that all entreaties failed, but rather, they were allegedly accused of being Boko Haram agents and they were refused registration after several altercations in some of the registration centres.”
The minister frowned on the development and urged the telecommunications companies involved to accord maximum respect to Nigerians from all walks of life, particularly women, whose feminine nature and religious dispositions should be cherished.
Shittu said the Nigerian constitution guaranteed the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion for all citizens, adding that such rights should never be violated by executive or administrative lawlessness, highhandedness and insensitivity.
He asked the telecoms companies to tender unreserved apologies, saying it was inhuman and unacceptable to treat Nigerians in a cruel manner. Even the rights of minorities should be respected, he added.
The minister was quoted as saying, “The inhumane treatment meted out to Nigerians in the course of the ongoing SIM re-registration exercise in the country, where subscribers were made to suffer untold hardships, mostly in the scorching sun and unbearable conditions, is no longer acceptable. It will no longer be business as usual.
“If the experiences of smaller countries like Rwanda are anything to go by, where operators play according to the rules and where infractions are usually met with stiff penalties, telecoms companies in the country have to brace up or face the brunt of their inadequacies.”