By Prince Osuagwu
Executive Vice ChairÂ man and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Engr. Ernest Ndukwe, pennultimate week emerged Pillar of Telecom in Africa at a special award ceremony to climax the first edition of the West African Information Communications Technology (WAFICT) Congress 2009.
The occasion also heralded the formal institution of the African Hall of Fame by ICT magazine, IT & Telecom Digest. The award ceremony, sponsored by one of Nigeriaâ€™s telecom services, 21st Century Technologies,Â was an exclusive gathering of dignitaries from the Nigerian and international telecom sectors as well as some distinguished guests.
The award recognised Ndukweâ€™s stellar performance in steering Nigeriaâ€™s telecom sector to global reckoning; as subscriber base is currently estimated at 70 million, while foreign direct investment from 2001 till date has surpassed $12 billion.
Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, the Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO), who was present throughout the duration of the WAFICT Congress, but had to fly back to his base and could not attend the dinner and special award night due to pressing engagement at the bodyâ€™s London headquarters said via a text message: â€œAny award to Engr. Ernest Ndukwe by the Nigerian and African ICT community is most richly deserved.â€
Prof. Pat Utomi who also attended Ndukweâ€™s investiture as the Pillar of Telecom in African at the first African Telecom Hall of Fame Award, described him as a friend, saying he was not surprised that Engr. Ndukwe was being honoured for his exemplary work in turning around the nationâ€™s telecoms sector.
â€œFor me, itâ€™s pure joy to watch what you have done at the NCC,â€ he noted. Recalling a magazine feature on emerging CEOâ€™s, which included himself, he stated that Engr. Ndukwe had turned out to be the individual who had impacted the society the most of the lot.
Also addressing the exclusive gathering which included Chief Leo Stan Ekeh, Chairman of Zinox Technologies who came in the company of his wife, Mrs Chioma Ekeh, and Mr. Nicholas Okoye, the Chief Executive Officer of Anabel Mobile; Mr. Wale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive of MTN Nigeria said:
â€œWith everybody talking about the success of the telecommunications industry and as somebody who has been here in the industry I can testify without any equivocation, that the biggest factor of the growth of this industry has been the regulatory certainty we have enjoyed in the industry.â€
Goodluck revealed that there have been several occasions in which the NCC and operators have disagreed and the regulator has even in the past penalised telecom operators. â€œLooking at where we are going we have enjoyed a fantastic regulatory regime. Itâ€™s only in Nigeria when the analysts all over the world are talking about telecoms industry we donâ€™t hear them using words like immature regulator, or nascent regulator and all the other things they use to write Africa down. When it comes to Nigeria the stability of the regulatory environment, the transparency of the regulatory environment has translated into our ability to source and attract funding as the best way for telecoms investment in Nigeria. So speaking from an operatorâ€™s point of view, I would say that what we have witnessed in the last nine years, if we are able to translate it into other sectors of the economy, Nigeria would be completely out of the doldrums. The sky is the limit,â€ he stated.
Dr. Chris Uwaje, Regional Director of D-Link International described Engr. Ndukwe as a specimen for research for resolving Nigeriaâ€™s problems. â€œI would still insist that if Engr. Ndukwe had been given the power sector to turn around he would have done so marvellously as he has done with the telecom industry. So, my only regret is that he was not given the computer industry to turn around; if he was given the computer industry to turn around I can assure you oil would have taken the back seat, India would have been the number two in software development and we still look forward to that dream,â€ Mr. Uwaje remarked.
Describing the EVC as an embodiment of faithfulness, integrity, simplicity and transparency, he stated that Engr. Ndukwe deserved the award. â€œI believe throughout Africa if we are to set exam for regulators he would still be number one. I want to join the rest of us to wish him all the best and to also challenge him to do much better to become the world number one regulator,â€ he concluded.
Ms Funke Opeke, CEO of Mainstreet Technologies who expressed her admiration for the EVC declared that her company was a beneficiary of the innovatory regime of the NCC, having been awarded a pioneer licence for laying undersea cable. â€œI must say I continue to be amazed by your progressiveness and your vision for truly having a laudable environment for ICT, not just telecommunications in Nigeria,â€ she stated.
Reacting to some of the comments, Engr. Ernest Ndukwe expressed surprise at the award as he had no inclination of his investiture into the African Telecom Hall of Fame. Dedicating the award to the board and members of staff of the NCC, Engr. Ndukwe described the Commission as a government agency with a difference.
â€œEverybody knows how passionate I have been about this industry, I must say that I have actually given it my all and when I work and for some of you who have visited the NCC would recognise that we donâ€™t really work as any typical government agency.
We take our job very seriously and when you come around 7pm or 8pm, many members of staff are still very busy doing one thing or the other. So we are also very passionate at the NCC for the growth and development of this country. I must say that the achievement so far can also be attributed to the hard working folks in that organisation, the board and the management, and staff of NCC,â€ he said.