Isa Pantami, the minister of communications and digital economy, has directed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to ensure that telecommunications companies deactivate automatic voicemail subscriptions on phone lines.
In a statement released on Tuesday by Uwa Suleiman, spokesperson to the minister, Pantami said voicemail service should be accessed at the discretion of the subscriber and not by default.
“The attention of the honourable minister of communications and digital economy has been drawn to the latest trend of financial exploitation by mobile network operators (MNOs) in the country through the automatic activation of the voicemail service on their platforms,” the statement read.
“Based on recent reports reaching the office the practice has gained momentum in recent times.
“The voicemail service should be accessed at the discretion of the subscriber and not by default. The honourable minister finds it worrisome and totally unacceptable, that telecoms subscribers incur financial charges, for a service they are compelled to use by default.”
Explaining the rationale behind the directive, Pantami said voicemail is not a popular service among Nigerians and rural dwellers mostly understand the language used by networks on the service.
“It is apparent, that the recent clampdown on the exploitative activities of some mobile network operators (MNOs) in the country has beamed the searchlight on the sector properly and some unpatriotic elements in the system are devising subtle, ingenious methods of defrauding Nigerians.
“In the light of this. Dr Pantami has issued a broad policy directive to the sector regulator Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to immediately ensure that issues regarding automatic voicemails are addressed on all existing phone lines and the subscribers, given the option of accessing the service via an activation code.”
In a recent directive, Pantami suspended cash payments in all Nigeria Postal Services (NIPOST) offices saying some staff have been taking “undue advantage of the cash payment system to engage in corrupt practices”.