By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-Tech Editor
Telecom lawyer, Mr Ayoola Oke has cautioned that the independence of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, must remain sacrosanct if the country hoped to strengthen the economy with the contributions of telecommunications sector.
Oke, a Principal Partner at Ayoola Babatunde Oke & Co; and former Special Adviser to the former Executive Vice-Chairman, NCC, Dr Ernest Ndukwe, said if the reports that the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy was interfering in the management of the NCC were true, it could spell doom to the growth of the entire economy.
Oke who spoke to Hi-Tech after delivering a lecture at a seminar the Commission organised for Judges, titled: Developing telecommunications law: Jurisprudence & judicial precedents – an x-ray of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, admitted that the ministry has some form of supervisory role to play in the activities of the commission, but however said it was strictly on policy directions through the board.
He said: “The law establishing the NCC made it expressly clear that the commission is independent, and that should be non-negotiable. But, however, through providing policy directions which are not also by fiat, the ministry also exercises some form of supervision on the NCC. All these are primarily to see that Nigerians get better industry regulation while the economy is better for it.”
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He said the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, was a near perfect document and beat his chest that if the contents are applied accordingly, Nigeria would continue to be the leading light of telecommunications governance in Africa.
He, however, pointed out that if there was anything to review in that document, it probably would be sections 91 and 92 of the Act which focuses on competition regulation.
He said: “The Nigerian Communications Commission Act 2003 should be deepened to protect the local or small operators. In the industry, it is almost as if the big operators are holding down the small operators and this gives reasons to why the small operators are dying without meaningful impact on the country’s economy.
“Technology is a dynamic sector, when operators invest money in big projects and equipment and eventually technology changes, it is always the big operators that usually survive it; the small ones fall by the way side. But if there is anything in the Act that protects the small operators against such eventualities, they would still remain to add their little quota to the economy.”
He noted that healthy competition between the small and big operators was needed in the telecom ecosystem for the country to be able to harness all the growth potentials of the sector.