By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-tech Editor
Telecom operators in the country and other professionals in the Information and Communications Technology, ICT, industry, yesterday, called on the Federal Government to issue an executive order against vandalism of telecom infrastructure, double taxation and regulation in the sector to properly harness the developmental potential of ICT in nation-building.
The call was made as Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, flagged of Nigerian telecom leadership summit in Lagos.
The summit, according to NCC, is meant to restructure and reposition Nigerian telecom industry to accommodate current realities that shape world economies.
The theme of the 2019 edition of this summit is: ‘Repositioning the Nigerian Telecom Industry for the Future: Prospects and Challenges.’
Challenging the government on the travails of the industry, Chairman of Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria, ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, said the only way to have a telecom industry that would become the backbone of the economy, was for President Muhammadu Buhari to pronounce executive order on telecom infrastructure to forestall incessant vandalism by urchins and facility shut down by all manner of state and local government agencies.
Adebayo said these have hampered telecom activities and diverted revenue that should have ordinarily accrued to the Federal Government.
Also corroborating him was former Minister of Communications Technology Omobola Johnson.
According to Johnson, “during my time as minister, there is hardly any state I didn’t travel to have meetings with the governors on how to have a harmonious relationship with the telecom operators.
“However, it appeared that after the meetings, the governors reneged on everything we agreed and continued to fix arbitrary levies and charges on operators. For me, I think the time has come when the approach should change.
However, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo promised that the Federal Government would take a look at certain decisions taken in the past to see if some amendments could bring the desired change.
Osinbajo, represented by Special Adviser to President Buhari on Political Affairs, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, said the Federal Government was displeased with the lingering issues of ‘Right of Way,’ saying it had become a huge encumbrance to broadband infrastructure deployment across the country.
Osinbajo’s message read in part: “Today, in virtually all aspects of human life, telecommunications have become indispensable.
“In Nigeria, we have experienced a positive impact of that contribution of the telecom industry in our economy. The contributions of this industry to the national Gross Domestic Product has continued to grow, with the last quarter of 2019, indicating 10.1 per cent.
“This sector contributed an impressive N1.9 trillion, in the fourth quarter of 2018, a clear indicator, that the sector is one of the geese that lays the golden egg of our economy, and, therefore, must be encouraged, protected, sustained and projected.”
“The Federal Government is proud of the performance of the Nigerian Communications Commission in its sustained democratization of access to telecommunications services and maintaining the stability of in the sector. With 174million connected lines, 116million access to the internet and current broadband penetration at 33.22%, the impact of on lifestyles, business and social interactions, have continued to improve.
“Direct and indirect employment opportunities have been remarkable. It has become imperative, that as we move closer to implementing the agenda of the next level economic blueprint, telecommunications and ICTs, will occupy a pride of place.
“This administration has taken concrete steps to provide support and encouragement to the telecom industry. Under the purview of the Ease of Doing Business Programme, we have initiated some Executive Orders, aimed at stimulating growth and creating an enabling business environment that will give a fillip to sensitive sectors like telecom sector to thrive.
“The Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari is desirous of bridging the digital divide. We understand the challenges of deploying infrastructure that drives access to telecommunications services to very wide geographical locations in Nigeria. We are also aware of the security challenges that face different economic activities in some part of the country, which may lead to the disruption of services and in some cases, led to attendant destruction of infrastructure. But we will continue to put our best efforts to ensure that we contain these challenges.
“We are currently looking at very important investment areas of interest as highlighted by the telecom regular. Of particular attention is the desire by the Commission that the nation needs deployment of at least 120,000 metropolitan optic fibre connectivity to achieve pervasive broadband penetration across the country. We are looking at various possibilities in achieving this, including an open invitation to the private sector to partner with government in this direction.
“The Federal Government is also concerned about the lingering ‘Right of Way’ issues that have continued to linger, particularly, at State levels. We will revisit the National Economic Council Resolutions, with a view to revising it and encouraging the State governments to see to its practical implementation.
“We are encouraged by the efforts of the Nigerian Communications Commission to bridge the gap, in spite of these challenges. We have a very keen interest in how the Commission implements appropriate strategies to connect more than 40 million Nigerians identified to have been left out in the current infrastructure layout.
“We are hopeful, that through the provision of licenses to eligible infrastructure provisioning organisations (InfraCo) for the deployment of fibre to all the geopolitical zones under the Open Access Framework, will begin to yield fruitful results that will translate in available, accessible and affordable broadband services across the country”.