NCC tasks incoming National Assembly on infrastructure bill
AS a sure way to address the issue of vandalisation and theft of telecommunication infrastructure, as well as tackle the problem of poor quality of service in the country, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has urged the incoming National Assembly to pass the Critical Infrastructure Bill. Similarly, the commission has developed 112 as National Emergency Number and is currently working on the sanctions for telecom operators who send unsolicited text massages to subscribers.
The NCC Director of Consumer Affairs Bureau, Mariam Bayi, said the commission is frustrated with the high number of unsolicited massages being sent to subscribers by the telecom operators, adding that it might come up with a regulation that would provide penalties for unsolicited text massages. Making the call on Wednesday in Abuja, the NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Dr. Eugene Juwah, said the only way to address the problem of poor quality of service is to have a pervasive infrastructure and ensure that such infrastructure are adequately protected.
According to him, even though the Nigerian telecommunications industry has grown in leaps and bounds with an active voice subscriber-base of about 142.5 million, a teledensity of about 101.8 per cent, about 83.2 million Internet subscribers and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of about $32 billion, the infrastructure on ground today is inadequate to cope with the high number of subscribers in the country.
“As at 2001, the Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd (NITEL), which was supposed to provide the backbone for the new telecommunication operators, was already moribund and in other countries, the telecommunication infrastructure on ground was what the incumbent telecom operators relied upon to deploy services,” he said.
“We need to put in place adequate infrastructure to meet the demand of our population and thereby provide good quality service to telecom consumers in the country.
For instance, in the Federal Capital Territory, no approval has been given for siting of new base stations for many years. “Though recently there was a change of mind for additional base stations, the technology of GSM is inter cellular and requires adequate coverage to avoid drop calls. No permission has been given for siting of new base station at the National Assembly since the past five years.”
He added: “The issue of quality of service would be addressed if more infrastructure were deployed across the country. We have engaged the governors on this issue through the Nigerian Governors’ Forum but they complained that telecom operators destroy our roads and don’t cover them, and must give us guarantee that anytime they dig the roads, they must cover them up.
“We came up with a guideline and we agreed that the first person there puts the infrastructure for everybody so that other operators don’t have to dig the road anymore, but the governors are not signing the guidelines for putting telecom infrastructure.
Every state needs to sign to address the problem.” Juwah, who was represented by the NCC Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo, also noted that the problem of multiple taxation and regulation in the industry slows down the deployment of infrastructure.
According to him, the commission is engaging the state governors to find out “if it would be better to allow investments come in first and we start taxing them or we tax them upfront and then chase them away.
Unfriendly tax system is a disincentive to investment. “We are making presentations on the need to remove the bottlenecks in order to have good quality of service.”