By Prince Osuagwu
The present Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Dr Eugene Juwah clocked four years in that saddle a few weeks back after Dr. Ernest Ndukwe’s 8 year tenure ended in February 2010.
Juwah’s tenure began with a bit of uncertainty from industry stakeholders who doubted the ability of any other person to match, let alone surpass the impressive growth trails that Ndukwe left behind.
Having played so deep in the telecom sector himself, Juwah apparently knew the enormity of work left for him to do and the consequences of letting that office overwhelm him. He quickly assembled a think-tank group made up of bright NCC personnel to chart the way forward.
The media was first to know the outcome of that in-house tete-a-tete,when he stormed Lagos to brief on his roadmap to sustaining growth of the ICT sector.
He unveiled a six-point agenda, which included consolidating the progress made before he came to office; taking drastic measures to improve quality of service (QoS); enhancing broadband implementation; improving competition among telecoms players; providing diversified choices for consumers at good price and on good quality; as well as improving the commission’s presence in the international stage.
On close observation, these strategies have guided a lot of policy initiatives, which have continued to impact positively on the industry with multiplier effects on other sectors of the economy.
On several fora, industry analysts that try to do comparative analysis of present NCC administration and the past, have agreed that while a lot needs to be done, a great deal of work has been done by this present administration to ensure consolidation of growth already on ground before it came.
A telecom expert, Chuks Nkwonta at a recent event in Lagos, told Hi-Tech that “consolidation is what we lack in many sectors of the economy, including government. But irrespective of the fact that the telecom industry needs consistent push, Juwah and his group at the NCC has done a great deal to see that the growth Ndukwe pioneered is sustained. from the parameters which Nkwonta’s argument is that both teledensity, subscriber base have been continually improved upon.
While teledensity increased from 63 per cent in 2010 when Juwah came to power, to more than 90 per cent in 2014, subscriber base also rose from 88 million in 2010 to more than 130 million currently, according to figures released by the regulator in its monthly subscriber data.
Other analysts contend that increased favourable regulatory regime have also bolstered both Foreign Direct Investment, FDI and Gross Domestic Product, GDP.
Little wonder, in a media chat recently, Chief Executive Officer, Etisalat, Mr. Matthew Willsher declared that most of the achievements of the telecom players today, were due to good regulatory policies put in place by the NCC.
Incidentally, these positive steps have also impacted very well on the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
Juwah himself, showed this off in a recent chat with Hi-Tech, when he claimed that increased telephony penetration recorded in the last four years has contributed remarkably to the Nigerian economy. “our activities in the telecom sector has increased the GDP. From 5 percent addition, when we came in, we have added up to 8.5 percent to GDP now, as was announced recently during the rebasing of the economy.
This is because investment in the sector, also increased from $18 billion in 2010 to more than $32 billion today. The sector has created the most stable jobs and as investments grew in the past four years, more jobs, both direct and indirect, had been created and are still being created,” he added.
Quality of service
This is one area Juwah himself will agree has been the most difficult. However, the NCC said it has adopted several measures to achieve results.
From setting up a key performance indicator for quality of service to imposing various sanctions on the operators the fight for better quality of service is ongoing.
The regulator also said that to get things straightened out on this issue, it undertook to reviewing the old interconnect rates, following the expiration of the old interconnect rate regime last year. Interconnection rates are the charges which telecoms operators charge one another for terminating calls on each other’s network.
It is one of the key premises for open and fair competition in a telecoms market is an effective interconnection regime. Also the NCC said it decided to adopt the asymmetric rates for the new inter connect regime in recognition of late entrants and the commencement of the Unified Service Licensing Regime to create an enabling environment for healthy competition in the telecoms market.
Another initiative put in place by the NCC is the setting of price cap on local SMS at N4.00 with effect from February 5, 2013. The new price cap is a 60 per cent reduction from the former price that was N10 per SMS for off-net and N5 per SMS for on-net text messages and this has continued to earn NCC adulation from subscribers.
Besides introducing the Mobile Number Portability, (MNP) in April 2013, to give consumers the choice of movement from one network to the other without losing their original identity, NCC said it deliberately the industry-specific code of corporate governance, recently to enthrone global best practices among the boards of telecoms players, whose actions and inactions have far-reaching effects on the entire telecoms industry.
Juwah will always say that “the telecommunications sector is of strategic and high impact significance to the economy at a macro level and has considerable reach at the micro level.
But while industry players and leaders of pressure groups like the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON); Association of Licensed Telephone Operators of Nigeria (ALTON); as well as the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), have commended the NCC’s regulation in the last four years, they still challenge the regulator not to rest on its oars ubtil Nigerian economy is totally dependent on technology as seen in other developed countries of the world.