The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami has assured telecommunications stakeholders that government was committed, more than ever, to work with operators and others to resolve decades old challenges facing the sector.
The minister spoke at a special reception organised by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) in Abuja as part of the bonding process to foster healthy relationship between government and telecom operators in order to address the industry’s aches.
‘‘The responsibility of taking the sector to further heights does not lie on one person but on all of us. We need to get in touch when necessary. I appreciate constructive criticisms. I encourage you to come up with constructive criticisms. Anything less than this is propaganda! If criticism is propaganda, I am not intimidated. It can’t get into me. Propaganda pushes me to do more. Understand my psychology.
“I am one of the easiest people to interact with. I encourage us to join hands together to take the industry to a higher level. I will never lock my doors against you,” said Pantami as he enjoined stakeholders to have a more constructive approach in engaging government to resolve the issues as they arise.
‘‘The responsibility of taking the sector to further heights does not lie on one person but on all of us… I encourage you to come up with constructive criticisms. Anything less than this is propaganda! If criticism is propaganda, I am not intimidated.”
Pantami told his audience largely of private sector operators across the country and regulators under his ministry that government is not shy of meeting its obligation to fostering entrepreneurship and removing the hurdles faced by operators.
Pantami emphasized the need for constant engagement to deepen understanding by all stakeholders. “My doors are always opened for advice, recommendations, suggestions and constructive criticisms,” said the minister as he also disclosed that the ministry will set up a committee involving all agencies under him to be headed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to document and provide solutions to the industry’s challenges. He said he would welcome frequent dialogues even if quarterly to allow all stakeholders look at issues and address them positively.
The telecommunications sector now contributes nearly 13% to the country’s GDP as technology increasingly gains traction in Nigeria’s economy underscoring why the Ministry of Communication was officially renamed the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy months back.
“ATCON would continue to advocate for changes and government intervention in a professional, mature and objective manner to protect as well as promote its members interests.”
But the telecom sector faces several hurdles threatening its continuous existence according to operators. Vandalism of telecoms infrastructure, unending conflicts over right of way, unfavourable FOREX regime and multiple taxations imposed by other state actors have connived to frustrate operators despite several past interventions by the telecommunications regulator, NCC.
But Pantami assured ATCON that the ministry was already working hard to finally resolve the thorny issues.
‘‘I have tabled the challenges facing the sector to the Federal Executive Council and I can assure you that actions are being taken. The AGF [Attorney General of the Federation] requested me to mention facilities by name, including their locations. ‘I have also been in touch with the NSA [National Security Adviser] to resolve the issues around him. At the end of the day, we will make a difference. I am interested in getting results,” said the minister.
According to the President of ATCON, Mr. Olusola Teniola while welcoming the minister to the event, the reception was organised to formally honour the minister in line with ATCON’s tradition. His words “This is intended to give the industry the opportunity to meet with you and share where the industry is currently and where they expect the industry to be after your tenure.
ATCON would continue to advocate for changes and government intervention in a professional, mature and objective manner to protect as well as promote its members interests, added Teniola even as he revealed that the association was already planning a ‘National Dialogue on Telecom and ICT in Nigeria.’
He said: “the association would collaborate and partner with the ministry to collectively resolve the obstacles working against the growth of the industry.”
The well attended event drew active participation from across all the subsectors that make the telecom industry. From the public sector were Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr. Musa Istifanus and other directors in the ministry; Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Professor Umar Garba Danbata; Director-General of NITDA, Mr. Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi; Managing Director NIGCOMSAT, Ms. Abimbola Alale; Managing Director/CEO, Galaxy Backbone, Mr. Yusuf Kazaure; and Secretary, Universal Service Provision Fund, Mr. Ayuba Shuaibu.
Some of the private sector players were former president of ATCON, Mr. Lanre Ajayi and CEO of Pinet Limited; CEO of Medallion Communications Limited, Mr. Ike Nnamani; CEO of BCN Limited, Mr. Ibrahim Dikko; CEO of Rack Centre, Mr. Tunde Coker; and CEO of Phase3 Telecom, Mr. Stanley Jegede among others.
ATCON previously hosted the former Minister Of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu in Lagos.