• NCC takes sector’s challenges to Governors’ Forum


    NCCFOR the telecommunications sector to further contribute significantly to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the need to urgently address the challenges bedeviling the industry has been reechoed.
    The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), which has been in the fore front of this course, listed some of the challenges to include arbitrary and unfriendly taxes; exhorbitant Right of Way (RoW) levies; vandalism; fibre cuts, among others.
    As such and as part of efforts to finding a lasting solution to these challenges, the NCC informed that it has started engaging the Nigerian Governors Forum on the issue.
    Disclosing this at the weekend in Lagos, at the maiden edition of the ‘Telecom Impact CEO Forum’ with the theme: ‘How telecoms can contribute 25% to the GDP by 2025’, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Dr. Umar Danbatta, who affirmed that the challenges kept growing daily, however, said the commission was currently engaging the Nigeria Governor’s Forum (NGF) with a view to removing the barriers to infrastructure deployment such as fiber optic cables, BTS, and others from their states.
    Danbatta said tax friendly policies should be encouraged and that RoW needed to be addressed.
    The EVC, who was represented by the Director of Public Affairs, Tony Ojobo, reiterated that the telecommunications sector was one of the fastest growing in the world.
    According to him, telecommunications is obviously leading as the aggregate Foreign Direct Investments from 2007 to 2013, ranked it as a contributor of 24 per cent of such projects. “Between 2011 and 2013, telecommunications sector attracted about $6 billion worth of investments, which has accelerated ICT contributions to an estimated 10 per cent, translating to some $50 billion.”
    On the topic, Danbatta said the commission does not wish to isolate telecommunications from Information Communications Technology (ICTs), generally.
    According to him, there is an undeniable relationship in the world of ICTs towards making this contribution to the GDP, even if telecommunications lead the pack in this direction. “So when we project for 2025, we must take these into consideration.”
    The EVC noted that it was the position of the regulator to accurately make a long-term prediction of what the sector of a hugely diverse economy like Nigeria would be in10 years, adding that it was also appropriate to make a prediction where other sectors of the economy are intensely competing to contribute.
    “The role of the telecoms regulator is to continue to provide type of environment that will continue to encourage investment and growth. There is no doubt that this is the reason for the exponential growth in active subscriber statistics of more than 150 million lines and teledensity of 107 per cent. This is not comparable with less than 500,000 lines in 2001. It is not by accident that more than 80 million Nigerians have access to the Internet today. These are products of robust regulatory processes.
    “Having said these, the telecom regulator is desirous of the ICT sector contributing even more than 25 per cent to GDP by 2025. At the current contribution estimated at 10 per cent, this implies achieving additional 15 per cent over the next 10 years. This is by no means a very tall order, given what we have said about the competition sectors of the economy, which is for the good of the nation in the long run”, he stated.
    However, any consideration of achieving such a feat, according to Danbatta must also give consideration to putting a robust plan, with long, medium and short-term measures to attract and sustain investments.
    Acording to him, in the ICT sector, it is all about investments, which could be infrastructures, content, human capital, and supportive infrastructure availability, especially power as it relates to this sector.
    He explained that in the case of telecommunications sector, a lot of premium is being predicated on broadband availability in driving the nation’s contributions to the GDP in the distant future. He said a strategic plan was in place, and it projected achievement of 30 per cent of broadband penetration by 2018.
    If this is achieved, it surely would fast track the contribution of the ICT sector to GDP”, Danbatta said, adding, “this is because broadband will energise the sector and the economy. Most of the activities in the industry will be e-driven. Digital warriors who will drive local content will emerge, and formal and informal employments would be created.  Commerce will thrive more on the digital space. Education and health sectors will receive a boost and governance will even come closer to the citizenry as government and its agencies will begin to run on complete e-platforms.
    It is on this note that we submit that the question as to whether telecom will contribute 25 per cent to the GDP by 2025 should not be a question but a desirable dream. It is our guess that this is not wishing that other sectors of the economy would stand still for telecoms to overtake them, but it may serve as a tonic for the stakeholders and operatives in the industry that their impacts are being felt.”
    According to him, it is also a proposition that would attract more resources that would energize the industry to keep pace with expectations of more activities.
    The NCC EVC posited that a sector of the economy projecting to contribute 25 per cent to a nation’s GDP, invariably presented a blank cheque for rewarding economic activities, innovations, huge returns on investment, provision of huge employment opportunities, promotion of welfare of the citizens, and provision of huge support to governance.
    Also speaking at the event, former EVC of NCC, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, the telecommunications industry today present many exciting thing that must be handled with care, stressing that the sector’s potential for Nigeria remains very huge.
    While calling on Lagos to enable ICT development because of its position and influence, Ndukwe said the state should be an example of where technology resides.
    According to him, many telecommunications firm are laying fibres in the state to expand technology reach, “so the government should make RoW acquisition easy and convenient for operators to get. Any refusal, even in other states to give RoW to operators is simply working to increase poor quality of service; this is because lack of cabling infrastructure hinders service quality on the networks. Lagos should not look at revenue front-end but back-end.”
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