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FG begs states to back actualisation of 70 per cent broadband penetration

By Adeyemi Adepetun
26 March 2021   |   3:02 am
Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, has appealed to state governments to cooperate with service providers in ensuring the realisation of the Federal Government

[FILES] Broadband infrastructure workers.

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, has appealed to state governments to cooperate with service providers in ensuring the realisation of the Federal Government’s 70 per cent broadband penetration by 2025.

Speaking as principal keynote speaker, yesterday, at a virtual forum organised by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) with a focus on the implementation of the New National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025, Pantami said the government was committed to creating an enabling environment for the economy to grow.

Saying President Muhammadu Buhari had settled for wholesale implementation of the plan, the minister reminded the states that their support was crucial.

He said the broadband deployment was beyond a mere collection of taxes, stressing that states should see network providers as partners in progress.

Recall that telecoms operators are having issues in rolling out infrastructure in some states because of prohibitive Right of Way (RoW) levies. Against the N145/linear meter brokered by the ministry and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), some states still charge as much as between N5,000 and N10,000 per linear meter, a development that has hindered seamless rollout of the facility nationwide.

Pantami, however, disclosed that some states had accepted the official benchmark, even as others offered free RoW, adding: “But we are not there yet. I have had the opportunity of making a presentation to the NGF, where there were about 30 state governors and representatives on the importance of creating an enabling environment for infrastructure development.”

He continued: “Infrastructure development is critical, especially as the country moves to achieve 70 per cent broadband penetration. To achieve this, partnership between the private sector and government is crucial. So far, the private sector controls 91 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while FG controls just nine per cent. So, it is essential that we work together to ensure the country’s development.”

Also speaking, the Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, represented by the Director of Spectrum Administration, Austine Nwaulune, submitted that stakeholders must aggregate their expertise for the realisation of the goal.

He said the NNBP had raised the performance bar for the whole industry, observing: “However, being a document crafted by experts and executives, there is no reason why it cannot be achieved to put Nigeria on a firm pedestal of nations with broadband access.”

To the Director-General, National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Abdullahi, broadband plays a huge role in nations’ development, noting: “All stakeholders must be ready to work together to drive the realisation of the target.”

Earlier, ATCON President, Ikechukwu Nnamani, said the development of a solid digital economy rests on the foundation of well-distributed broadband infrastructure, involving the convergence of all technologies and services.

On his part, the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Airtel Nigeria, Segun Ogunsanya, with implementation in mind, the task should be providing broadband that is cheap, reliable and sustainable.

Chairman, MTN Nigeria, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, said the project must be judiciously implemented, advising that the hiccups must be adequately ironed out.

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