Embassy of MTN and the Booming MiFi Black Market

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By Dozie Richard Iheakaram

I always dread going to MTN’s office in Maitama district of Abuja. The very thought drains me of energy, and I will do everything, and I mean everything within my control to avoid that office. This trepidation is borne out of several years of experiencing MTN’s brand of customer service which always left me hanging.

I have been MTN’s customer since 2002 when I got my present line. In the past, I had gone through repeated biometric exercises due to the failure of its machines to capture my biometric data. There was also an issue about a wrong name linked to my line which took me to that “always crowded” office in 2018. The Maitama office is always crowded, yet MTN ignores this service issue. It can afford to too because there are few choices, and of course this is Nigeria, where anything goes.

Let’s start with the MTN office. The building’s security setting conveys one message, “YOU ARE NOT WELCOMED HERE”. A very strong message of unfriendliness for a should-be customer-oriented organization. It could pass for an embassy building where visa seekers stand outside, come rain or shine. I mean if bank customers can walk into banks without all the stress, it leaves me to wonder why MTN needs all that high-handed security.

Well, I was forced to go to MTN’s office to get a MiFi two weeks ago. Before deciding to go to the office, I had searched on its website for the most convenient means of getting the MiFi. There were two options; the first link referred me to MTN stores while the second referred me to Jumia website. Excitedly, I clicked on the Jumia link which led me to the Jumia website. After reading a few lines of the exciting Jumia-MTN partnership, I happily clicked on “shop now” but got no response. I clicked and clicked and clicked until I reckoned; they must be laughing at me from their side of the desk.

You know, like that viral WhatsApp message that read “and the fool pressed and pressed his phone”. These people!! That service isn’t operative, and no one cared to take down the link. The other link referred me to several MTN outlets. I checked the addresses and the Maitama office was the closest to me. Chei!! I took a deep breath, had some water, slept over it a few days and hoped for a miracle that will bring the MiFi to me. When no miraculous MiFi appeared on my reading table, I had no choice but to go to the MTN embassy in Maitama.

At that small gate that reminds one of the “Eye of the Needle” gate into Jerusalem which Jesus said it was easier for a camel than for a rich man to pass through, there were private security officers and police officers attending to various customers. I waited patiently like so many others under the scorching Abuja sun until the security men had despatched some visitors to create enough room for me to step forward.

I stepped forward and explained my mission to buy a MiFi to the security man. He said someone will go in to check for its availability. In my mind, I had no doubt that it will be available inside MTN’s office. After all, every single hustler I saw outside the premises was clutching the small yellow MiFi box. As I stood under the hot Abuja sun and time rolled by, I thought; “what if it is raining, will I still stand in front of a business under the rain to buy its product and load it with my money for many years to come?” The honest and sad answer was yes. Yes, because there are limited choices. MTN can afford to piss on me, get my business and piss on me again and I won’t even leave the spot.

MTN is the R. Kelly of telecoms in Nigeria. But it is not alone in pissing on its customers. Take DSTV for instance. You pay for your subscription, the money is taken, you are not reconnected, you send a text to 30333 to be reconnected and you get charged for it. Such effrontery!! DSTV is a story for another day especially as the rains are coming and service will be lost occasionally (especially during the football matches that we pay that princely sum for) while your subscription runs. After a long wait under the sun, the security man came back and gave me the sad news. There is no MTN MiFi in stock. Wait! What?!! How could that be? Every single hustler, and I mean everything single hustler I saw in front of MTN’s office had the yellow MiFi box with them and were making offers to me as I parked my car. Welcome to the MTN MiFi Black Market dude.

You better play Falz’s “This is Nigeria” song and leave it on auto-replay. When I got back to my car, I called over one of the hustlers and asked if he had the MiFi. He had, and at a cost of N18,000. MTN indicated N12,000 on its website. I asked the hustler if I could register the MiFi right away and he said that all MiFis are already registered and activated in someone else’s name. All that needs to be done is to add my NIN to it. Wait, a minute, so I will have a sim card with a different name, but my NIN is linked to it? The hustler saw no issue with that. I declined to buy the MiFi and left. I am still in need of a MiFi. How long will I hold on before I go back to be pissed on? Maybe I should take a cue from Dave Chappelle who said if R. Kelly pissed on him, he will wash it off with soap and water.

MTN cannot claim to be oblivious of this racket. It has auditors. It can test its process to see if it works the way they planned it to work, unless they planned to have a MiFi black market, then it’s working perfectly. It’s easy for MTN to see that there are loads of activated lines that are not in use and all probably supplied to the same vendor or vendors in an area. But why would it bother? It has supplied its target number of MiFi modems, received N12,000 for each; sales target has been met and profit realised. Its work is done.

With no viable alternative, I may be going back to see R. Kelly.

Credit: Facebook Wall of Dozie Richard Iheakaram.

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