By Emmanuel Elebeke
The Senate yesterday, took a swipe on the practitioners in the nation’s information and Communications Technology , ICT sector for the non utilization of their technology expertise in the ongoing fight against insurgence in the country.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on ICT, Senator Gilbert Nnaji , issued the query during the at the 2014 budget defence meeting with the Nigerian Communications Commission,
NCC and the Universal Service Provision Fund, USPF in Abuja.
He questioned application and justification of the wealth of knowledge and expertise that Nigeria parade in the sector in the face of the palpable spate of insecurity in the country.
‘‘The palpable spate of insecurity in the country makes one wonder if ICT is of any use in our polity. This is in-spite of the wealth of knowledge and expertise that Nigeria parade in this sector.
It is bewildering that the rising insecurity in the country occasioned by insurgencies erupting from different angles has been met with an embarrassing quietness from the ICT sector.
Is it that this sector is devoid of the appropriate solution or technology to fight insecurity in Nigeria? Is it that this nation does not have competent personnel in the public and private sectors of our nation’s ICT to counter insurgencies?’’
He then urged the NCC with other stakeholders in the sector to convene a stakeholders’ retreat to share ideas on the available and potent technology to be deployed to stem the tide of insecurity in Nigeria.
‘‘It is our view as a Committee that the regulator and other relevant stakeholders in the ICT and security sectors in this country should convene a Stakeholders’ retreat where ideas can be shared on the available current and potent technology to be deployed to stem the tide of insecurity in Nigeria.’’
Senator Nnaji also questioned what he termed the delay in the ongoing rural telephony connectivity, and demanded that the project be fast-tracked to enhance telecoms operation in the rural areas.
‘‘The Committee is dismayed to note the ever increasing digital divide that exists between the rural and urban areas in the country. While mobile penetration is high in major cities across the country, it is not the case in rural areas where, on average, two-third of the country’s population lives.
Aside from the National Rural Telephony Project, NRTP being conceived by the Federal Government, the Committee is of the strong opinion that rural connectivity could be enhanced if telecoms operators in the country can collectively address the issue very seriously. In this regard, the Committee believes that the Commission can best drive this objective through regulation.
We believe the Commission has a major role to play in this regard so that majority of Nigerians in the rural areas can enjoy the benefits of mobile technology,’’ he said.
He described the little broadband access in the country as worrisome, insisting that if the aim of achieving national connectivity in Nigeria is to be realized, then there must be sustained effort by the Commission to speed up its fibre optic programmes and projects, especially the State Accelerated Broadband Initiative, SABI to broadband services.
‘‘The fact that our nation has little access to broadband services, even with the number of undersea cables running across the country, is worrisome.
Though we are a global example in the telecoms milieu, we still lag behind in terms of broadband and internet penetration. If the aim of achieving national connectivity is to be realized, then there is need for a sustained effort by the Commission to speed up its fibre optic programmes and projects especially the State Accelerated Broadband Initiative, SABI If I may ask, what is the direction of the Next Generation Broadband Network, NGBN in Nigeria?,’’ he said.
On poor quality of service across the country, he said the committee would continue to raise alarm until there is a seamless network service, with other attendant factors militating against quality service delivery, were addressed.
Responding, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Dr. Eugine Juwah told the law makers that the commission was working hard to provide the security agencies all the necessary services needed to perform their duty.
He also promised to step up action on sanctioning all the operators that flout the enabling laws.
Juwah, who also said that the commission apart from focusing on attracting both local and foreign investors, would issue more infrastructure Company, infraco licences from September this year, starting from Lagos and Abuja, and assured that the recent 2.3MGz spectrum auctioned earlier in the year would soon boost the current quality of service in the country.
Also speaking, the Secretary of USPF, Abdulahi Maikano promised that the rural telephony project would be completed in three years time and that the agency would ensure that every part of the country is covered with telephony connectivity.
Meanwhile, the NCC presented N54.4 billion budget for the 2014 fiscal year. Out of the amount, N14.8 billion was allocated to recurrent expenditure while N15.8 billion was allocated to capital expenditure.
In addition, the sum of n7.4 billion was allocated to the USPF projects. According to the commission, its revenue dropped in the previous year, which led to a flight in the capital budget.