Communication Technology Industry Development in Nigeria – Issues of the Moment

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By Titi Omo-Ettu, former president of ATCON

Nigeria-Telecommunication-Tower

Two reasons informed this contribution to on-going industry development initiatives:

One is that there has been a wait-and-see attitude by industry players in the communication technology industry and this may be a convenient time that specific issues be discussed or specific questions be asked.

Two: Two documents are in public domain regarding the roadmap that the industry may travel under the current dispensation.

The two documents are

(1) Communiqué of the 2016 Communications Sector Retreat in Ibadan, and

(2) The EVC’s 8-point Agenda for Telecommunication 2016 – 2020.

 

This input is a further contribution to those two very good and trending documents. The EVC’s agenda is particularly very promising and commendable.

 

I invite attention to three earlier and important documents which specifically address strategic industry development, namely:

  • The National ICT Policy (2013).
  • The National Broadband Plan (2013 – 2018).
  • Guidelines for Nigerian Content Development in ICT/ (an Entrepreneurship Blueprint) (2013).

 

These three documents, in the absence of any critique (of them) which may suggest either a deviation or additional strengthening should be viable documents to implement in full measure to assure steady development. Indeed the earlier two documents recognise them and mention the importance of their full implementation.

 

I observe, for example, that the ICT Policy already assumes a Converged Regulator for the Communication Technology Industry while the Broadband Roadmap prescribes various inter relational tasks and functions which diverse sectors of the economy must perform for Nigeria to attain the 2018 target of a five-fold increase in broadband penetration over the 2013 status.

 

It is important to suggest that the implementation of these functions be pushed.

Beyond all the five documents mentioned above, two critical issues which require refreshed emphasis is the future of the industry regarding Regulation and Subsidy.

 

Regulation

The manner of regulation in a broadband environment will be the major challenge of the industry and it is important that we prescribe fundamental requirements of the Converged Regulator to assure optimum performance of the industry. These include:

  • The existence of the Governing Board (of Commissioners) AT ALL TIMES
  • The Quality and Qualifications of the Commissioner
  • Smart Frequency Planning on the part of the Converged Regulator and its comprehension on the part of the Governing Board of Commissioners

 

Apart from foreseeable challenges which make the above concerns important, even the National Communications Act 2003 is very specific on the issues especially in paragraphs 5(3) and 7(1).

 

5(3) prescribes that a Board of Commissioners shall exist AT ALL TIMES while

7(1) prescribes the qualifications of the Commissioners.

 

As we speak, the Governing Board does not exist and I suggest we advise the Hon Minister to clamour that the President constitutes one soonest so investors can continue to respect our Regulation.

 

Emphasis on the qualification of ‘The Commissioner’ is critical. This should place precedent on his/her professional skills (in his/her profession and also in relation to communication technology issues) above the constitutional requirement of national spread and an understandable political patronage.

 

Subsidy

It is commendable that the industry enjoys the benefit of a Universal Service Provision Fund, USPF. More gratifying is the observation that the FUND’s Secretariat has modified it working focus to see ‘unserved’ and ‘under-served’ communities from the perspective of Broadband Internet Presence.

 

The Fund also requires its Board of Directors that is made up of members who have Sufficient Expertise and Experience to guide the mandate of the Fund.

 

 Final Question

Is the ICT Policy of 2013 an approved Document?

If No, we may want to address the issues preventing its approval.

If Yes, we should address taking a bill to the National Assembly for a revised National Communications Act as the Policy has already made the existing Act obsolete.

 

See Appendix below.

Appendix

Extracts from Nigerian Communications Act, 2003

  1. (1) There is established for the Commission a Governing Board (in this Act referred to as “the Board”) charged with the administration of the affairs of the Commission.

 

(2)   The Board consists of 9 Commissioners made up of-

 

  1. a chairman,
  2. a chief executive who shall also be the Executive Vice Chairman
  3. 2 Executive Commissioners, and
  4. 5 non-executive Commissioners,

who shall be appointed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

 

(3) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the President shall ensure at all times that there is a duly constituted Board of Commissioners and that there are a minimum of 6 serving Commissioners on the Board at any and all times, made up of –

  1. the Chief Executive;
  2. 2 Executive Commissioners; and
  3. 3 non-executive Commissioners.
  1. (1) Commissioners shall be persons of recognised standing, qualification and experience in one or more of the following fields –
  1. finance or accounting;
  2. law;
  3. consumer affairs;
  4. telecommunications engineering;
  5. information technology;
  6. engineering generally;
  7. economics; and
  8. public Administration.

This is text of an input to the works of the Telecom Industry Advisory Council Inaugural Meeting on April 8, 2016 by Titi Omo-Ettu, a former president of ATCON. You may contact him: titi@titiomoettu.com. www.titiomoettu.com


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