Before the extension of the MTN service to Adekanbi community in 2022, life was extremely local and monotonous for the villagers. The narrative of a community with over 2,000 residents situated in the Orire local government area of Oyo State underwent a significant transformation due to the availability of MTN service.
When this reporter toured the rural community in September 2023—just over a year after the installation—the functionality and effectiveness of the service were evident. Unbridled joy was apparent on the faces of young people and adults.
A villager, Kareemu Ojonla, 32, recounted the stress of searching for service in the community some years back. This father of four said he remembered the time he had to raise his phone for minutes or hang it on a large tree located in one part of the village, where every villager gathered to secure service on their phones before making calls.
The experience of Hamza Shehu, a 40-year-old father of five, was similar to Ojonla’s. He couldn’t make calls freely under the tree (the village’s designated service location) due to lack of privacy and fear of mockery when other villagers spotted him.
“Secret conversations cannot be held at the tree because crowds are always there trying to make calls too. Some people would sit there purposely to eavesdrop on our conversations over the phone and mock us,” said Sheu.
Mr Sheu used to avoid people’s mockery by going to another service location in the forest, about a 30-minute trek away from the village.
“Meanwhile, the deep bush was always intimidating to venture into, especially at night.”
Communication was difficult, poor, and unreliable in the village, but the story has changed with arrival of MTN service. The strength of the service provider extends to 10 neighboring villages in the Adekanbi community, such as Alaidan, Agunko, Daodu, Baba-Gaa, Jegede, Kanaani, Olori, Ekuso, Alawodi, and Onigba-etile.
PRIVATISATION SUCCESS IN NIGERIA’S TELECOMMUNICATION SECTOR
Though Adekanbi residents are not aware, the accessible telecommunication services to their villages is part of the impact of the deregulation of the telecommunication sector that started as far back as 1992. Before that time, the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), a government-run company, operated on a monopoly on the country’s telecommunication industry, causing low development in the sector.
The deregulation caused early telecommunication companies like MTN and V Connect to thrive and quickly fill up the gap left by NITEL. With the boost in phone subscribers, the government recognised the magic private companies can perform. Then in 2006, the government took a bold step by selling 75 percent of NITEL to Transcorp, a Nigerian multinational company, with the remaining 25 percent later sold to Nigerian companies.
This strategic privatization move had a profound impact. In the year 2000, NITEL served only 30,000 phone subscribers. Today, Nigeria’s phone subscribers crossed above 200 million, a testament to the success of privatization in fostering growth and accessibility in the telecommunication sector.
While reacting to how the MTN’s service has lifted the living standard of the Adekanbi residents, A frontline MTN customer care representative, Kunle Adeyemi, said that what his company did is what every other private company can do.
“Despite contributing to the development of Adekanbi village, MTN used the project to gain more customers, and I know that the objective has been achieved. So it’s a win-win project,” he explained.
ONCE A VILLAGE, NOW A TOWN
Mr. Ojonla beamed every time he responds to questions, an expression of excitement that Adekanbi village is now akin to towns and cities as they can make conversations with people outside their villages from the comfort of their rooms.
“The service assists our farming business,” he said. “A single call gives us access to market prices, and the cost of chemicals and fertilizers without stress. It also helps us connect with family and friends while traveling, especially in emergencies.”
Ramata Jimoh, 30, is another village dweller who is always excited to share how the ability to use phones changed her life, and cut her extravagant expenses.
“I did not own a phone before the service installation because we are in a village, but I was encouraged to buy a phone when they brought us network connectivity,” said Jimoh.
“Before, I used to spend a significant amount of money (more than N6,000 for a round trip) to travel to my parent’s place in Ilorin, but now, it only costs me N100 airtime to hear from them. The service now saves me from the stress of a 4-hour journey and financial expenses.”
INCREASE IN POPULATION
In February 2023, Wasiu Gani, 30, migrated with his wife and three children from Balah to Adekanbi village. When considering their area of relocation, Adekanbi became their choice because of its telecommunication service advantage.
“The service is making life easier and more enjoyable for me and my family in this new abode. There is also ample availability of water, unlike my former place,” said Wasiu.
A card seller in the village, Azeez Ganiyat, explained that everyone has become an MTN customer due to the service. “It is hard to find someone without an MTN sim in our village now. It serves as a blessing to my own business,” she said.
Mrs. Azeez started the card business 4 years ago but did not thrive properly until last year.
“It used to take me five days or more to sell N1,000 airtime some years back. But now, it has become a thing of the past as I am selling N3,000 airtime within a day.
“I have made a profit that I couldn’t make in the first three years of my business in just one year of the service installation. This even led to an increase in card sellers from three to six in our village now,” she added.
While Adekanbi are elated with the MTN’s service in their villages, they still face challenges of putting calls across some places.
The village leader (Baale, as locally called), Alagba Akande Suleiman Gbere, a septuagenarian man, revealed that villages such as Eleyele, Akute, Ponla, Ayese, Laomi, among others, even though are in the same area remain unreachable.