The GSM network is a natural platform for broadcasting messages and, with the level of GSM penetration, of up to 97million people in a population of between 130 and 180million, it offers a very attractive tool for instant message dissemination and campaigns. The practice, as I have observed with Nigerian networks is that messages are broadcast in that traditional scattergun manner, without much selectivity. The annoyance comes when Message alerts pique your curiosity and compel you to pick your phone up, under the default expectation that there’s a message from a loved one, an acquaintance, a friend or a colleague or the boss, or generally someone in your circle, but, as you’d often find, you’ve just been distracted and your mental flow disrupted by an unwanted message, soliciting your subscription to someone’s idea of quick money, some lottery, some words of emotional and or spiritual encouragement, bla bla  bla, that is, very often, all the things that you’d never bother about.

To add to the annoyance, you may be peppered with voice broadcasts from the Networks advertising their services, very often at inopportune moments. I find these so annoying that, my phone is often in ‘silent’ or ‘do not disturb’ mode, so that I can look up messages or missed calls at my discretion. Nigerians are complaining loudly but, so far, without much effect.

It is recommended best practice in SMS marketing to ask for subscriptions first and then to broadcast only to those who subscribe but it seems that it’s the requests for subscriptions that have become too many and so frequent as to become a nuisance. Then again, sometimes, you subscribe and then you’re are locked-in as your attempts to exit fail. Other times you’re surprised to find out, through another annoying message, that unbeknownst to you, you’re subscribed to a certain service and that, worse still, you’re being billed for it; I’ve never been able to opt of MTN’s ‘Amazing Facts’ and I didn’t subscribe in the first instance, and I’m regularly alerted to the NGN50.00 monthly renewal fee. Breaking News! I’ve just be interrupted by a call from 55224 – MTN or Airtel. Of course, I didn’t bother to answer it.

Good thing, manufacturers and service organisations seem to ignore this channel. They must be wise enough to know that it doesn’t pay to irritate and annoy the market. That task has seemingly been abandoned to the networks and Nigerians are plenty annoyed with them. The National Assembly and, of late, the Nigerian Communications Commission has come out with warnings to the networks to desist from broadcasting unsolicited messages. I wouldn’t say no to all unsolicited messages, especially if for the public notice and good, like warnings of an approaching storm, traffic alerts or even an apology for some service failure (very rare indeed!), but, please, and please, CEASE AND DESIST.  Do not disturb. We shall resist o!