By AKOMA CHINWEOKE
The executive chairman of Nigeria Communications Commission, NCC, Mr Ernest Ndukwe, has said financial and operational independence is critical for Nigeria to sustain the gains recorded in telecomsÂ sector especially in this era where information and communications technology (ICT) is driving theÂ global economy.
Ndukwe, who disclosed this in Lagos at the 2010 leadership roundtable on Telecom Revolution in Nigeria organized by the Leadership and Role Model Foundation,Â pointed out that in the country today, telecomsÂ networks has made it possible for the nation to be counted as an active player in the ICT stage in ways that simply were not possible in the past.
Speaking on the topic,â€ Team PlayingÂ Â and Bridge Building: An appraisal of the Success Factors for Sustaining the TelecomsÂ Revolution in Nigeria,â€ the NCC bossÂ noted that deploymentÂ of ICT resources, especially mobile base communication gadgets, has been boosted by the quantum leap which has been witnessed in the telecomsÂ sector in the past ten years.
â€œWithin this period, subscriptions to telecomsÂ service has risen to the current level of almost 75 million connected lines by December 2009. I am sure by now it would have comfortably scaledÂ the 75 million. This growth and advancement in telecommunications within the last decade has improved the nationâ€™s ICT ranking in the world and has positively impacted all sectors of the economy. Nigeria has become Africaâ€™s largest telecom market,â€ he said. He however attributed the success achieved so far to the foresight ofÂ government in implementing a successful sector reform which provided the enabling environment for effective policies and regulatory regime to thrive.
â€œThe Nigerian government has proven itâ€™s commitment to promoting a regulatory environment that is independent, fair, transparent and predictableâ€.
To sustain the growth in the sector, the engineer suggested that the nation must ensure that it maintains stability in the policy and regulatory space. He pointed out that before the licensing of digitalÂ mobile operators inÂ 2001, private investment in the sector stood at around 15 million dollars only adding that between that period and now, the sector has attracted about 18 billion US dollars in direct local and foreign investment for all kinds of things ranging from equipment, licence fees and other investment of all kinds in the sector.
According to him,Â high investment levels haveÂ been attained because Nigeria has become one of the most desired investment destinations for ICT in Africa not just due toÂ the potential of the market but also due to the suitable policy and regulatory regime.
â€œ Nigeria as we all know have always had a very big population, but nothing was happening until we instituted the right environment to make things happen, so it is not the population. The role of the policy maker also mustÂ Â be of necessity separated from that of the regulator. A situation where policy makers try regulating also the industry when there is a regulatory body in placeÂ would run contrary to international best practices and create regulatory uncertainty which investors actually run away from as when there is regulatory uncertainty people find other markets to invest in.â€
He stressed that maintaining a suitable and predictable operating environment is therefore essential for attracting and continuing investment in the sector in future adding that it is also important to make sure that those who invest know there is a chance of having appreciable return on the investment capital they put into the business.
The NCC boss explained that lately the global economic meltdown which was further aggravated by the banking reforms impacted greatly onÂ the sectorÂ which is very capital expensive as banksÂ no longer lend the way they used to and therefore said to continue network expansion, improve quality of service and increased coverage in Nigeria, emphasis must be on ensuring an attractive operating environment.