By Prince Osuagwu &Emmanuel Elebeke
Friday 10th August declared public holiday by the federal government was not only a day for celebration of Eldel Filtri by the Muslim faithfuls, but it was also a day stakeholders in the Nigeria ICT industry converged to celebrate one of their own, Engineer Ernest Ndukwe who just recently completed his two terms tenure as the Executive Vive Chairman of the Nigeria Communications Commission.
Though, few dignitaries were expected at the event, as it was a day many people were expected to travel out of town to be with their people, the Ocean View Restaurant, venue of the occasion was filled to capacity as who is who in the industry defied the pleasure of the Salla public holiday to offer a heroic welcome to who they described as the icon of Nigerian ICT and telecom industry.
In his welcome address, the Chief host of the occasion and President of Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Engineer Titi Omo-Etu said that the Nigeria information and telecommunications sector was able to make significant impact and unprecedented contribution to the economy in the past ten years because of the quality of leadership and professional approach Ndukwe brought to bear and commended the federal government for putting a round spade in a round hole and for creating the right environment for him to operate, adding that the recent appointment of another professional in the person of Dr. Eugene Juwa as Ndukwe’s successor, would not only guarantee sustenance of growth in the industry but will also go a long way in building on the legacy Ndukwe left behind that will take the industry to the next level.
Engr. Omo-Etu also commended all the ATCON members for their continued support to the industry
and urged them to extend same to the new leadership of NCC. The ATCON president also lauded the press for their contribution to the industry and promised to support them through capacity building.
In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the occasion and former minister of information and communications, Engineer Olawale Ige described the telecommunication industry as a catalyst to any development.
This he said had been acclaimed globally because of the pragmatic steps taken in this digital era. He expressed satisfaction with the achievement of industry in the past ten years under the leadership of Ernest Ndukwe and commended him for taken such a bold step.
“Our industry can no longer be relegated to the background. In all nations globally because the ICT industry has taken the lead in driving the world economy.
I have to congratulate you ATCON because you have contributed immensely to the development of the industry in this nation. The exponential development we are witnessing today in Nigeria can only be attributed to the auction of 2000 by the NCC,” he noted.
According to him, the industry had passed the face of building infrastructure, creating awareness and making consumers complain, and is now advocating on how telecommunication services will reach every Nigeria.
In a goodwill message, the President of Association of Licenced Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, Engineer Gbenga Adebayo described Ndukwe as a child that went to war and came back hero for haven achieved so much in the past ten years he held sway in the NCC and commended him for delivering on his promise.
“We are not unaware of the many challenges that you fought. We know that you fought so many battles with the government at different levels and others on behalf of Nigerian subscribers. We are saying you have done well .
You delivered on what you promised. The industry that was seen to be limping before you came in is today having one of the best functional infrastructure in the country,” said Adebayo.
While the country celebrate success in the sector, the ALTON President expressed worried on government interference on the regulator, saying that such act is capable of mitigating against further achievements in the sector.
I used the occasion to call on government to ensure the sustenance of the independence of the NCC.
The regulator must be free from all forms of influence, politically and financially. We can’t have two or three regulators in the same industry in the name of regulation,” he noted.
He then challenged the new EVC of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwa to assert his authority as the only industry regulator and not to allow interlopers to interfere in his job. Failure to do this, he feared that the industry may not attract the needed investors.
Lending his voice in eulogizing Ndukwe, Dr. Chris Uwaje said it was heart warming that after ten years Engineer was at the saddle in NCC, he was able to find solution to the dead Nigerian telecom industry and described him as warrior and a special specie worthy of research.
“What we are celebrating today is not a tea party but his unprecedented achievement in the industry. I urge Nigerians to subject him into one of their memoirs for research with a view of arriving at how he came up with this revival strategy. This will go a long way in leaving a legacy for those coming from behind. Therefore I create the indulgence of the new EVC to ensure a sustenance of Ndukwe’s achievement and convergence in the industry,” he suggested.
The new EVC of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwa in his own speech expressed appreciation to ATCON for organizing the programme in honour of Ndukwe, whom he said had left a legacy that will endue.
Also speaking, the President of Nigeria Internet Group, Engineer Lanre Ajayi said Nigeria was lucky to have somebody like Ernest Ndukwe as the EVC of NCC, who when he resumed duty was handed over 500 thousand telephone lines and by the time he finished, left over 68 million active lines with over 18 billion dollars worth of investment, over 11 million internet users far above what they were ten years ago.
In his response, Engineer Ernest Ndukwe thanked the organizers of the programme and called for the sustenance of growth and progress in the industry. He specifically appealed to the government to give the necessary support to the regulator. He also advocated for maintenance of right environment for timely expansion of network; timely sale of frequency and spectrum and timely ans quick broadband expansion to all corners of the country.
No matter how much Nigeria had progressed in the industry, he was of the opinion that Nigeria needs to grow its teledensity level beyond 50 percent at it stand today, as more than 70 other countries in the world have already exceeded the 100 percent target for realization of Vision 20 2020.