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Why NCC declared 2017 as Nigerian Telecom Consumer year

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* Task states governors to corporate with commission on deployment of infrastructure
No doubt, the media plays an important role in the development of any nation with its prevalent contributions to prominent sectors that add to the economic growth among others.

This informed the idea by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) to declare 2017 as the Year of the Nigerian Telecom Consumer.

The purpose, according to Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman (NCC), is to extend the frontiers of the commission’s engagement with stakeholders, particularly the consumers that constitute the lifeblood of the telecom industry.

Danbatta, who was represented by Tony Ojobo, Director of Public Affairs, spoke at the first annual lecture of CKN News in Lagos with the theme: “The Role of the Social Media in the Socio-Economic and Political Development of Nigeria.”

The vice chairman also tasked state governors under the auspices of Nigeria Governors Forum, to cooperate with the commission by ensuring that permits are granted to operators to deploy the infrastructures needed.

He lamented that service providers have been discouraged by exorbitant levies, taxes and other bottlenecks in the States therefore the need for State Governments to see the long-term benefits of data availability and its relation to economic growth over and above immediate gratification of more revenue.

He noted that the initiative would create platforms for conversation that will offer more information and education to consumers to tackle challenges experienced by subscribers to telecom services, and through that, underscoring the commission’s resolve to protect the consumer against infractions by service providers. “The consumers-NCC engagement also enables the Commission get feedback and suggestions that enriches our regulatory role and interventions in the industry.” He said.

“Suffice it to say that in driving this programme, we have also deployed the social media to extend our reach and engagement. It stands to reason therefore, that NCC as a public sector organization recognizes the value of social media networks in the society and its power to disseminate information on real time basis globally.

“We appreciate the importance of data as a key resource in knowledge-management. This explains our decision at the NCC to enhance our strategic activities in the facilitation of broadband deployment consistent with the National Broadband Plan.

“Accordingly, to make data available for all persons in Nigeria to access the Internet and participate in the emergent digital economy, the Commission has conducted the auction of the 2.3GHz and the 2.1GHz spectrums. Some slots in the 2.6 GHz have also been licensed and the 800MHz is being re-planned for LTE services. All these are frequencies that will guarantee a robust access the Internet thereby empowering citizens to utilize the social media networks.

“The Commission is also engaging our stakeholders such as the State Governors under the auspices of Nigeria Governors Forum, and also individually as State Chief Executives to ensure permits are granted to operators to deploy infrastructure. Service providers have been discouraged by exorbitant levies, taxes and other bottlenecks in the States. So, we are persuading State Governments to see the long term benefits of data availability and its relation to economic growth over and above immediate gratification of more revenue.”

He also disclosed that the Management of the Commission is also re-farming older frequencies held by operators to be used for data services, adding that commission has considered giving operators the liberty to deploy spectrum resources allocated optimally by utilizing Next generation technologies available in the global market.

He said that two licenses have been issued to Infrastructure Companies (Infracos), to hasten deployment of fibre Optic infrastructure in Lagos and the North Central Region of the country.

“The remains licenses for other regions are being prepare for licensing before the end of the year. This is one of our strategies for facilitating broadband deployment. The Infraco licensing will attract necessary investments in infrastructure to ensure support for the data segment and to ensure services are offered based on objective prevailing prices.

“The protection of infrastructure has also been a matter of concern to NCC. Hence, we are consciously in the vanguard of advocacy for the declaration of Telecom infrastructure as critical national assets. This is one reason we are pushing for a speedy passage of the National Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill by the National Assembly. The passage of the Bill is expected to reduce vandalism and theft of equipment and facilities to enable us to address a critical challenge to data availability and quality of consumer experience.”

However, Danbatta revealed that although NCC adopts technology-neutrality regime, in its role it would not regulate social media use of apps also referred as OTT’s.

“We nevertheless use our moral authority to request that Nigerians take advantage of the social media platforms to exchange information and participate in the political, social and economic processes of our country in ways that promote peace and enable us to build a more united and prosperous nation.

“The Cybercrimes Act 2015 already defines offences in this sphere and stipulates punishments for breaches. As responsible institution, we encourage a responsible and ethical use of the Social Media for the good of all and the development of our Country.”

In his own contribution, Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transport, said that the social media has in diverse ways been used to promote hate speeches in the country and as such can disintegrate the nation.

Amaechi spoke as a guest speaker stated that 90 per cent of information on the social media is fake. He also discussed that the media also serves as a feedback mechanism for the government and equally serves as a check to the activities of those in power.

“People use social media to engage government. Even politicians now depend on social media to target their political opponents. Social media is good for Nigerian economy and politics. It contributed immensely to our success in the 2015 general elections and it will equally play great part in 2019 elections,” he said.

On his own part, the Executive Director of Journalists for Democratic Rights, (JODER), Adewale Adeoye at the one-day training on reporting diversity organized with the support of the International Institute for Education, (IEE) and facilitated by the Ford Foundation, West Africa Regional Office, tasks journalists to give hope to what he described as an increasingly famished people and reflect many sidedness in their reports.

“How do we as journalists give hope to an increasingly famished people? How do we reflect the many sidedness of matter? As human beings whose identities are submerged in the narrative cobweb, how do we raise our heads above the murky conflict of contending interests?

“We do not need to remember ourselves that the media is critical to the overall end of politics and economy, which is the happiness of mankind. Will the media be on the side of the people or on the side of those in power alone? Can we set a new agenda for Nigeria, an agenda that will represent the aggregate interests of the contending parties?

“In the newsrooms, living up to best global practices has become a mirage. What can we do to create a paradigm shift to re-define the media within the prism of public interests?”

While lamenting the challenges that reporters face in giving concise reportage Adeoye said it might be difficult but it’s not an impossible task.

As part of the challenges, the executive director identified media ownership control, saying that public owned media institutions in Nigeria are being run as if they are the extension of the private fiefdom of political leaders and their families.

He noted that Public radio and TV stations are at the mercy of the political leaders who determine and often manipulate what should be used and what should not be aired or reported.

While emphasizing the role media plays in the society, Adeoye said, “the media can shape, make or mar the future of any society. The visible role of the media is shaping public opinion is further propelled by the emergence of citizen journalism, creating a new stream of information flow and a new population of users of public information.”

He noted that constructive engagement of diversity issues presupposes that media practitioners are expected to sharpen their skill for effective coverage of divergent interests, social, cultural and economic classes.

Adeoye, however, called for a paradigm shift to re-define the media within the prism of public interest to make impact in the newsroom and mass communication classrooms.



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