Telecoms companies in Nigeria have been suffering revenue losses in recent years as a result of the huge increase in international calls which are now being made over the internet using services like Skype and WhatsApp.
But rather than take the course of action which any healthy forward thinking might do and develop a strategy to adapt their businesses to changing market conditions, the telco’s want to take the easy way out, and block access to these Over-the-Top services in Nigeria.
Censorship for protectionism and profit
According to a report in Punch, Nigerian telecommunications companies have estimated that blocking these online calling services could raise a revenue for them of between N20-30 trillion by the end of 2018.
This is a significant amount of money which will be taken out of the pockets of ordinary Nigerians by blocking them access to services which are completely legal and used by people right around the world.
As is so often the case though, it seems that money talks and some of the comments being quoted in the Nigerian press make it clear that should this move occur, it would be entirely motivated by profit.
According to the manager of one Nigerian Telecoms company, who was quoted anonymously in the Daily Post newspaper, “It is an aggressive approach to stop further revenue loss to OTT players on international calls, having already lost about N100tn between 2012 and 2017.”
No Government Involvement
Even more remarkably, it seems that should this block take place it will be carried out by the telecoms companies themselves without any involvement of the Nigerian Government.
The Director of Public Affairs at the Nigerian Communications Commission said of the potential blocking of Skype and WhatsApp in Nigeria, ““We don’t have any evidence of that. We do not regulate the Internet.”
This is an astonishing quote and raises the question of what exactly the Commission does do if it has no oversight of what is the largest communications tool on the planet right now.
It should be noted that Nigeria is not the first country in the world where online censorship has been proposed as a means to protect the business and profits and traditional telecommunications companies. We have written before about a similar block on such services in Dubai.
But that private companies should have the power and ability to censor the access of Nigeria’s population of more than 180 million people to some of the most popular online services in the world, without any government intervention at all, is truly shocking.
Access Over-the-Top services via a VPN
Fortunately, as with so many efforts at online censorship, this one will contain a fundamental flaw and that is the proliferation of tools which can circumvent the blockage.
VPN users in Nigeria will be able to quickly and simply access Skype, WhatsApp, and any other Over-the-Top services they may care to use through their VPN connection.
There are a number of VPNs that offer an excellent service for customers in Nigeria and offer servers across the region.
HideMyAss is perhaps our pick of the bunch, as it offers servers in no fewer than 54 of Africa’s 55 countries. This is by far the most of any mainstream provider at the present time.
Then there is https://www.vpncompare.co.uk/purevpn-com, which offers 16 African servers in a range of countries across the continent, including Nigeria. IPVanish, our overall top VPN recommendation, has servers in Egypt and South Africa and ExpressVPN, which has servers in both of those countries plus Algeria. For more details on these VPNs and more, check out our article on the Top 5 Best VPNs for Africa.
All of these VPNs are worth considering for any Nigerians who would rather keep their money in their money in their own pockets than hand it over to their telecoms companies, and who would like to continue to use Skype and WhatsApp unimpeded.