Regulatory imperatives for sustaining revolution in communications sector (2)
Ahmed Joda’s Board understood the enormity of the responsibility placed on them and set out to build one of the most respected regulatory bodies in the world. The Board embarked on extensive consultations worldwide with regulators such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States of America and other regulatory bodies worldwide.
The Commission also approached the World Bank for assistance and support. It engaged the services of consultants such as Deloitte & Touché, Detecon GmB of Germany, USAID, and Growing Businesses Foundation, among others, to assist with building a strong, independent regulatory body for the communications sector.
Two critical objectives to address were (i) the need for institutional strengthening through the adoption of an appropriate organizational structure and (ii) the engagement of the proper fit of professionals to implement the organizational objectives.
The Board enjoyed the government’s support, which allowed it to operate freely without interference. President Obasanjo’s government respected the regulator’s Independence and did not interfere directly in its regulatory functions. The government of the day had the political will to build a solid and vibrant communications industry. It neither interfered with the Commission’s recruitment processes nor the regulatory functions of the Commission. The Communications Committees in the National Assembly were very professional and thorough with their oversight functions. All these contributed to the birth of a potent, vibrant, independent regulator.
Topmost on the agenda of the Commission was the licensing of operators to provide services to Nigerians, who long desired communication services. The Board engaged the services Spectrum International Consulting Limited of UK as the Consultant to advise on the appropriate auction method for the spectrum licenses. Simultaneously the Commission was addressing the institutional strengthening, spectrum auction methodology, and engagement of competent human capital to deliver on the mandate.
Some of the factors that contributed to the success of the various exercises in the Commission include the political will on the part of the federal government to transform the sector, the professionalism of the Board of Commissioners, focused leadership, clarity of vision, and an understanding of the assignment, selfless leadership, a commitment to hiring the best hands, and desire to succeed. To remain a professional regulatory body, the Commission should maintain these tested virtues in its regulatory processes.
The organization must ensure that responsibilities are clear and competence is recognized. The Commission should maintain the six core values of integrity, excellence, professionalism, responsiveness, innovation, and commitment in its oversight of the communications sector. There is a need to underscore the point that recruitment processes should take cognizance of people who possess the required fit for the job. When regulators compromise on getting the right persons for the job, it leads to a decline in standards and effectiveness. The actions of the supervising Ministry should not in any way undermine the Independence of the regulator. The Commission should be professional in handling matters that could compromise its Independence and thus weaken the organization’s ability
to regulate the sector effectively.
The current data from the communications regulator shows the sector’s growth level. The subscriber base for mobile services as of June 2023 is 223,338,215. Fixed wired/wireless services, 96,913, VoIP 228,553, bringing the total number of subscribers to 223,663,521. Recently the Commission licensed 25 Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) to provide services in the country. These new licenses issued by the regulator further underscore the maturity of the sector and the opportunities that abound. The revolution in the Fintech space, education, commerce, agriculture, health, security, and entertainment, all enabled by internet technology, cannot be over-emphasized. The e-enablement in these sectors requires that the regulator should not be hindered from performing its functions. The telecommunications sector, a sub-sector of the ICT sector, which contributed 14.13% to GDP, out of the 17.47% for the entire ICT sector collectively in Q1 2023, should be given its flowers.
The imperative of sustaining these significant milestones in the communication industry is critical. The 22 years of mobile communications in Nigeria have improved the quality of life in commerce, education, security, health, entertainment etc. Digital technology’s impact on Nigerians’ standard of living cannot be over-emphasized. Imagine banking without the internet, the services of online stores such as Konga, Jumia and others.
The introduction of hailing services like Uber, Bolt, and others. What of payment platforms for online transactions, mobile banking, and e-enabled services? There are just too many businesses piggybacking on digital technology. These have happened because the organization’s Board, management and staff laid a solid foundation 22 years ago. The subsequent Boards, management and staff of the Nigerian Communications Commission should continue to build on the labour of these heroes of digital Nigeria. Sustaining the gains made so far in the sector is the responsibility of all stakeholders, especially the regulator.
The revolution in the digital technology space must continue unabated.
Ojobo, PhD, former Director of Public Affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission, and President African ICT Foundation wrote from Abuja.
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