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Insist on NCC autonomy, Nigerians tell Danbatta at tenure renewal

Published by on June 18th, 2020.


*Say renewal, well deserved

*Achievements that paved way for him

NCC

By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-Tech Editor

The telecom industry has been on wild jubilation since last week, the federal government announced the reappointment of the current Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Prof Umah Danbatta.

Danbatta whose five years tenure is about to end, having being appointed August 4, 2015, and confirmed by the Senate on November 25, 2015, in line with the provision of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA), 2003, is to serve for another five years, taking him through 2025.

Announcing the reappointment, President Muhammadu Buhari, said the move was to consolidate on the tremendous gains already recorded in the industry as well as ensure stability in the industry.

He believes that another five years will give Danbatta the opportunity move the industry towards a higher path of growth, especially at this time when there is increased reliance in digital economy.

Keying on the president’s expectations, industry stakeholders have asked the EVC to think less of the jubilations and accolades and face the uphill task of steering a sector expected to be the mainstay of the economy particularly with the devastating blow the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt all economies.

They also took time to x-ray the possible achievements which may have led to his reappointment and asked him to consolidate on most of them if not all, but warning that only an independent regulator would be able to achieve consolidation.

They bemoaned recent happenings in the industry, including needless controversies, where the regulator appeared to have ceded its independence to the Communications Ministry.

The Chairman of Association of Licensed Telecom Operators in Nigeria, ALTON, Engr Gbenga Adebayo while congratulating Danbatta on a new tenure, advised him to brace for work because the sector appears to be stressed as it becomes the rallying point during the COVID-19 period.

He said: “We congratulate Prof. Danbatta as this is a testimony of his good leadership under which the industry has made significant progress and positive impact on our economy.

“However, we are looking forward to a stable, independent regulatory environment and also to a more robust regulatory and policy environment. Regulator needs to protect the smaller players and ensure they survive in the interest of competition and the consumers. We expect that his second term will bring about consistency for the progress of the industry.

Another industry giant, and top Nigerian software developer, Dr Chris Uwaje also said: “My recommendation to him is to set in motion the activation of all the six Digital Bridge Institute, DBI regional Innovation facilities, to accelerate opportunities, massive Youth employment benefits and wealth creation in the face of emerging digital revolution and economy.

Finally, I would urge and appreciate if the EVC, can deliver constructive intervention to lift the National Software Ecosystem which is in indeed the central lifeline of our digital transformation mission” he added.

In the same vein, Vice President Nigeria Internet Group, who also doubles as Executive director Centre for Cyber Awareness and Development, CECAD, Dr Bayero Agabi, advised Danbatta to take the issue of cyber security seriously as that could mar all the gains already achieved in the sector.

“The EVC should  take as part of his focus, Cyber security skills and development. This is because COVID-19 has forced many individuals, Organisations and nations online at unprecedented level. Again, digital life has also made it almost mandatory for everybody to digitize or ship out of business”.

He also advised that the regulator makes internet access a right if the country must take the opportunity of the digital surge to institutionalize Digital education

But a social commentator and tech expert, Mr Okoh Aihe listed a few troubling observations which he believes should engage the attention of the EVC on his fresh assignment.

He said: “Devoid of salt and pepper, here are some of the loud murmurs from the industry deserving EVC’s attention and they could as well find their way to his agenda. They include creating  strong leadership that accommodates the strength of every stakeholder for industry growth, initiatives and innovation; a revisit of the Spectrum Trading Guidelines which was recently suspended. Industry followers believed that the NCC had embarked on a good cause to make spectrum use more dynamic but truncated it for reasons that remain obfuscated.

“A proper reactivation of the Infraco licenses in order to breathe new life into the industry. Proper rollout by the Infracos will enhance connectivity among operators and make them less dependent on satellite and microwave services. This, on its own, will address the elusive quality of service”.

READ ALSO: Pantami tasks Danbatta, NCC on actualisation of Digital Economy

He also said that noted that a major breakthrough has occurred with some of the State Governors knocking the cost of right of way (RoW) for fibre rollout across states; or a total removal in some cases, such gains could be eroded by multiple taxations which are equally very harmful to the sector.

They suggest a one-stop-shop where operators could get into a state and do all their transactions in one location.

He advised that the baseline tariff or floor rate for data should be delivered from political equivocations and be handled professionally, while he expects the NCC to track the status of the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) Bill which was in the 7th  Assembly supposedly, and pursue it conclusively in order to help protect the industry.

Why he was reappointed

Stakeholders recalled that on assumption of office, four years and few months ago, Danbatta hit the ground running by unveiling an 8-Point Agenda, which was expected to provide a focus for the Commission and the industry as a whole.

Some of the issues covered by the agenda included facilitating broadband penetration, improving quality service, optimizing usage and benefits of spectrum, promoting ICT innovation and investment opportunities, facilitating strategic collaboration and partnership, protecting and empowering consumers, promoting fair competition and inclusive growth as well as ensuring regulatory excellence and operational efficiency.

High rating in institutional work processes

Two years after, Danbatta was recognized and rated high on institutional work processes by the Bureau of Public Service Reform.

The Buruea commended his very strong business organizational structure, policies and practices that facilitated effective and efficient service delivery.

Key Growth Statistics

Today, impressive growth statistics in the industry between 2015 till date are described as evidence of the successes recorded under Dnabatta as the EVC of NCC in his first tenure.

For instance, despite recession and other macro-economic challenges, the telecoms segment’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)’s contribution alone increased from 8.50 percent in August 2015 to 10.88 per cent as of Q1 2020. However, the entire ICT contribution was even higher at 14 percent as of the first quarter of 2020, according to the latest data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Surpassing broadband target of 2018

Today, following the painstaking implementation of the 8-Point Agenda, the country has was able to achieve and supass its broadband penetration target of 30 percent by the end of December, 2018. Various efforts of the Commission in licensing new spectrum bands, re-farming certain frequency bands and driving initiatives for increased broadband infrastructure in the country have also been responsible for this feats.

Rural Connectivity with TVWS Technology

Further to the strategic implementation of the 8-Point Agenda, the Commission worked relentlessly with the ministry and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to develop a Regulatory Guidelines for the utilisation of television white space (TVWS) for telecom services deployment.

The framework, which is now fully in place will help the country to leverage unused broadcast spectrum to extend affordable broadband services to the unserved and under-served communities in the country.

Accelerating Broadband Infrastructure across 774 LGAs

Also, closely linked to the efforts of Danbatta-led NCC towards deepening broadband penetration is the Commission’s pursuit of the Open Access Model (OAM) project aimed extending access to digital services across the 774 local government councils in the country.

Commitment to ICT Innovations in Telecoms Industry

In line with its commitment to promoting innovation to drive digital transformation, the Danbatta-led leadership created a Research and Development (R&D) Department for the Commission in 2016, with the purpose of synchronizing the various ongoing research activities and other development projects being carried out by the Commission. This decision, which was in line with the provisions of the National Telecommunications Policy 2000 and the Nigerian National ICT Policy 2012, is helping the Commission to stimulate and sustain innovations in the ICT industry.

Spectrum Auctions and Related Initiatives

In the last four years of Danbatta leadership, the Commission, apart from achieving and surpassing the 30 per cent broadband penetration, had also achieved some broadband successes in the area of spectrum auctions. These include auction of six slots of 2×5 megahertz (MHz) in the 2.6 gigahertz (GHz) Band, re-planning of the 800 MHz band for Long Term Evolution (LTE), licensing of two slots of 10 MHz each in the 700 MHz band, as well as the opening up of the E-band spectrum 70/80 GHz band for both last-mile and backhaul services.

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