​Airtel’s Fraudulent Manipulation Of Data By Elias Ozikpu

The plenitude of problems confronting Nigeria are beyond those manufactured in the criminal bakeries of our political oppressors. The undeniable truth is that we did not arrive in our current state of oppression without giving our oppressors a helping hand. We have tragically created for ourselves an identity of gullibility and simple mindedness, and the world has not hesitated​ in the slightest to take advantage of this important defect.

It follows, therefore, quite naturally too, that in our quest for liberation and social justice in Nigeria, we must take the fight beyond the political bakeries where fraud and oppression are baked and unleashed against the people.

Although Nigerians, in their malleable nature, have refused to speak out in protest against this malaise, one cannot put up a successful argument to dismiss the conspicuous fact that telecommunication companies in Nigeria have become overly fraudulent. Almost all telecommunication outfits in Nigeria are involved in this thievery, but I intend to focus on Airtel, who have not only victimized me, but have abused me with outrageous violence and remarkable impunity.

In fact, the broom with which Airtel sweeps off data from people’s accounts is rather too broad and effective. For instance, my personal archive shows that on the morning of Saturday, 12th December 2015, I received the following text message from Airtel:

‘Dear customer, you have used up 75% of your Android 1GB . This bundle expires on Jan 03 2016.’

The records available to me further show that the above notification was received at 08:23 AM, and that at 08:37 of the same morning, despite not downloading or surfing the internet, and with data turned off, Airtel Nigeria forwarded to me a second text message. It reads thus:

‘Dear customer, you have used up 100% of your Android 1GB . This bundle expires on Jan 03 2016.’

It is curious how 25% of one gigabyte got exhausted within 24 minutes, especially at a time when data was turned off! This is full-blown magic, never seen nor heard about before. I had the same experience with Airtel whilst using my java device. But sometimes when these things happen, one often gets tempted into believing that they happen by mistake – that kind of mistake where the customer suffers and wallows alone in his anguish.

Dissatisfied with this fraudulent way of sweeping off my data, I resorted to demand for documentary evidence detailing the history of my data usage through a correspondence dated 13th May 2015. This was followed by another correspondence dated 14th December 2015 and 22nd August 2016. The latter challenged Airtel’s decision to arbitrarily deduct my airtime over games I never requested for. And since refusing to reply these missives which were acknowledged in their head office in Banana Island, Airtel’s culture of scooping up my hard-earned data has continued unabated.

And as if the aforementioned nightmarish experiences were not enough, a recent incident left me stupefied and further reinforced my views that indeed there is a festival of fraud being machinated against Nigerians by telecommunication outfits – a plot comfortably championed by Airtel. I purchased three gigabytes of data on 8th April, 2017 and shockingly got informed on Sunday, 23rd of the same month, that the bundle had been exhausted! Three gigabytes of data exhausted within 15 days! Criminality has never been this bold and utterly reckless. Though the life span of data on Android devices depends on how the user uses it, it must be made abundantly clear that that angle of the argument cannot arise in the circumstances of this case. At the moment, I spend over 80% of my time in the office where I use the office Wi-Fi. A majority of my online activities are carried out with the use of this Wi-Fi. Besides, my background data is permanently restricted. This means that even when I am out of the coverage of the Wi-Fi, applications on the phone have no access to my mobile data. There is therefore no justification for the dubious manner in which the three gigabytes of data finished within a period of fifteen days, as Airtel would have us believe.

Indeed, there is an urgent need for Nigerians to rise and resist all forms of oppression and manipulation, not only from our political oppressors but from telecommunication companies, too. We have slumbered too long, during which criminals have walked into our living room, garbed in suits and armed with computer devices with which to manipulate and inflict upon us incalculable havoc.

There’s also the need for a revolution in the telecommunication industry; a revolution that should culminate in sending these criminally-minded companies to wherever it is that they came from. Airtel and their accomplices have been carried away to the extent that they have refused to understand that having access to one’s airtime or data gives them no legal right for manipulation. Manipulating one’s hard-earned data or airtime is not just malicious, it is outright larceny worthy of prosecution. It is like sneaking into someone’s house in the dead of night and carting away with the person’s valuables just because you have your victim’s key.

Besides political corruption, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other relevant agencies will do better by launching a series of investigations into the criminal manner in which Airtel and other telecommunication companies in Nigeria manipulate people’s airtime and data. This is the only realistic way of stopping this felonious thievery of mobile data that has become so pervasive in Nigeria.

I have always maintained the view that our preeminent problem as a nation is that we have created an atmosphere which is too conducive for thievery and all forms of corruption to blossom, and it is upon these deplorable footprints that foreign investments like Airtel have built their foundation and modus operandi. Quite obviously, there is no better time for Nigerians to build the culture of resistance than now. Bear in mind, however, that resistance cannot be built by accepting everything that is pushed down one’s throat. Resistance can only be successfully​ built by challenging and questioning every act of injustice and corruption and all acts that compromise human values.

Elias Ozikpu is a social commentator, playwright, novelist and polemicist.

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