BY Emmanuel Elebeke
The Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu has disclosed that the telecom sector contributed $60 billion to the economy in the last 17 years of its existence.
Shittu made the disclosure on Tuesday, at the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) reception and presentation of Board of Commissioners to the telecom industry in Abuja.
The Minister also disclosed that the Federal Government will in two weeks declare all telecommunication infrastructure across Nigeria Critical National Assets.
He said that no serious nation that prioritises its need right would joke with a critical sector like telecom given its immense contribution to the growth of the economy.
‘‘You know that the government is an enabler for all the sectors of the economy. Telecom sector is a private sector led industry, and what government does is to protect the enabling environment. We have gotten from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics the fact that there has been increasing investment in the sector.
”A lot of foreign investments are being brought in and a lot of Nigerians are getting jobs and also making more money both for Nigerians as individuals and for the government. There are indices to calculate this. I am relying on the statistics from the Nigerian Bureau of statistics that telecom sector has contributed $60 billion in the last 17 years
‘‘No nation that can toil with an industry that has contributed $60 billion to the economy in 17 years. As an industry that is focused, the Commission should pursue use of latest technology at a very affordable cost and improve quality of services. I challenge the new board to work with the management team to ensure operators enhance the quality of their service,’’ he said.
The Minister said he has confidence in the ability of the new board to deliver on its mandate and charged the members to collaborate with the management team of the Commission in deploying latest technology at a very affordable cost to improve quality of service delivery in the sector as an industry that is consumer focused.
‘‘I am confident that the choices made on the new board were made beyond human rapprochement. On the part of government, we expect the board to seek new ways to improve the quality of service delivery in the industry.
‘‘If you look at their resume you will agree with me that we wouldn’t have had anything better in terms of quality. They are all distinguished in various professional fields, they have also proven to be men of integrity and moral standing and so one is convinced that they will not compromise the interest of consumers and regulatory authority.
‘‘By the same token, they have given the commitment that they will ensure a level playing field for all operators. That means a lot because just as the consumers has rights operators also have their own rights as guaranteed by the law.
‘‘They must be given an environment that will encourage productivity, satisfaction for customers and that will also bring in more money for Nigeria.’’
Continuing, the Minister said the Administration would support any action that will improve the performance and image of the telecom sector, which he said has shown tremendous growth in internet penetration, broadband and teledensity growth over the years.
He further promised that government is ready to remove all stumbling blocks in the industry so as to ensure stress free deployment of telecom infrastructure by the service providers.
On declaration of telecom infrastructure as critical national assets, Shittu said a memo is ready and waiting for approval by the Federal Executive Council in the two weeks.
‘‘I believe it will happen within the next two week. We have a memo to the Federal Executive Council in that regard whose approval has been delayed due to certain circumstances beyond our control.
‘‘That bottleneck has now being removed and the memo will soon be presented to the Federal Executive Council. I want to believe in another two weeks or three weeks we will have approval of the Federal Executive Council and once it is approved we will go on to implementation stage.
The Minister also commended the new leadership of NCC for being proactive in its regulative mandate, which the agency gaining N80 billion extra for the country from a single fine of an operator.
‘‘You will recall that ordinarily, NCC makes money for Nigeria through their licensing processes and through selling of spectrum but the problem that arose from MTN is one issue, which has always been in the sector.
‘‘But it was when the new management came on board that they discovered it and announced to the whole world that that had happened not only that they followed it up with punitive measures. Perhaps, if it was not the current management perhaps it would have been glossed over and public would not have known.
‘‘That singular effort Nigeria has so far gained 80billion extra on top of what they have been gaining for Nigeria by way of selling of spectrums and licensing operators is commendable.’’
In his remarks, the Chairman of the board, Sen. Otumba Durojaiye said that the board will ensure level playing ground for all operators and would not allow any monopolistic tendency to thrive in the sector, insisting that the board ensure that healthy competition prevails in the sector.
He commended telecom investors for keeping faith with the economy and promised that the NCC under the new board would vigorously pursue initiatives that would empower consumers and improve quality of service by the operators.
‘‘We will do our best to attain high level of service in the industry. Improvement of services is our target. We must ensure fair level field for all operators and no one should be kept in doubt that Nigeria needs healthy competition. We are already working on improving the situation of poor quality of service. That is why we will welcome a healthy competition.
‘‘We frown at monopolistic tendencies. We will not fail to implore service providers to up their game. Service has worsened over the past two months. We solicit their cooperation in activating the DND code to enable consumers check the menace of unsolicited sms, drop calls and poor quality of service,’’ the Chairman said.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, Sen. Bath. Nnaji in his address, said ‘‘NCC is blessed to have a new board with tested and eminent personalities with proven records of great achievements to assist in taking the industry to the next level.
With the inauguration of the board, he affirmed that the Commission is better positioned to seek new ways to reposition the sector for global best practices and charged the board to employ new cutting edge so that Nigerians can get value for their money.
He condemned the wanton destruction of telecom facilities by hoodlums and promised to partner the Commission to find an end to the menace.
He also charged the Commission to come up with policies that would address incessant cases of multiple taxation, low broadband penetration, unsolicited sms, poor quality of service, drop calls and Right of Way issues.
In his goodwill message, Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecom Organizations of Nigeria, ALTON, Engr. Ghenga Adebayo, who was represented by Ibrahim Dikko said the issue of multiple taxation remain top on the priority list of the association.
While congratulating the new board, Adebayo said ALTON needs to collaborate with the NCC to attain sustainable growth and expansion of the telecom sector in the country.
Highlight of the event was formal presentation of the new board members by the Minister.
It comprised of Sen. Otunba Durojaiye as Chairman; Prof. Umar Dambatta, Executive Vice Chairman; Engr. Ubale Maska, Executive Commissioner, Technical Services; Mr. Sunday Dare, Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders’ Management; Sen. Ifeanyi Araraume, Commissioner and Mr. Clement Baiye, Commissioner.
The board is to oversee the affairs of NCC for the next five years