NCC tasks incoming NASS on Critical Infrastructure Bill
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has urged the incoming National Assembly to look into and ensure the passage of the Critical Infrastructure Bill to address the issue of vandalisation and theft of telecommunication infrastructure in the industry.
The NCC believed that if this is done, it will also help to tackle the problem of poor quality of service that has defied every measures adopted in the country.
Meanwhile, the commission, which recently donated books to the Micheal Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUA) in Abia State, under the National Books Donation Initiative (NBDI), has developed 112 as National Emergency Number.
The telecoms regulator has also said that a guideline that would provide sanctions for telecommunications operators which send unsolicited text massages to their subscribers would soon be unveiled.
Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Eugene Juwah, who disclosed this at different fora in Abuja and Abia state repectively, said that the only way to address the issue of poor quality of service is to have a pervasive infrastructure and ensure that such are adequately protected.
He stated that even though the Nigerian telecommunications industry has grown in leaps and bounds with 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 of about N32 billion, the infrastructure on ground today was inadequate to cope with the high number of subscribers in the country.
He said: “As at 2001, the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), which was supposed provide the backbone for the new telecommunication operators was already moribund and in other countries, the telecommunication infrastructure on ground was what the incumbent telecoms operators relied upon to deploy services, 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 sitting of new base stations for many years, although recently there was a change of mind for additional base station the technology of GSM is inter cellular and requires adequate coverage to avoid drop calls.
No permission has been given for sitting of new base station at the National Assembly since the past five years. “The issue of quality of service would be addressed if more infrastructures were deployed across the country.
We have engaged the governors on this issue through the Nigerian Governors Forum and the governors complained that telecom operators destroy our roads and don’t cover them, they must give us a guarantee that anytime they dig the rods, they must cover it up.
“We came up with a guideline and in the guidelines, we agreed that the first person that is going there puts the infrastructure for everybody so that other operators don’t have to dig the road anymore but he governors are not signing the guidelines for putting telecom infrastructure, every state need to sign to address the problem”.
Juwah who was represented by the Director Public Affairs in the commission, Dr. Tony Ojobo, said 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 would be better to allow investments to come in first and we start taxing them or do we tax them upfront and then chase them away. Unfriendly tax system is a disincentive to investment.
If the commission has met with Lagos, Ondo, Ekiti and Enugu state governors and the meeting with the Lagos state government has led to reduction of the fees paid for right of way for laying of fibre optic cables in the state by 85 per cent. We are making presentations to them on the need to remove the bottlenecks in order to have good quality of service”.
Also speaking, the Director Consumer Affairs Bureau in the commission, Mrs. Mariam Bayi, observed that NCC is frustrated with the high number of unsolicited massages being sent to subscribers by the telecom operators adding that the commission may come up with a regulation that would provide penalties for unsolicited text massages.
Meanwhile, MOUA became the 12 tertiary institution in Nigeria to benefit from the NBDI, which was embarked upon by the NCC to support yearly, public libraries and higher institutions of learning in the six geo-political zones with telecommunications and engineering books.
Speaking, while presenting 87 ICT/telecoms engineering books to the MOUA Vice Chancellor, Prof. Hilary Edeoga represented by his Deputy, Prof. Dominic Okpara, Juwah, said that the varsity is the first institution in the South East zone to benefit from this NBDI that was being effected in phases.
Juwah whose address was read was by the commissioner representing the South East zone in the NCC Board Dr. Mike Onyia, said that the books’ titles have been carefully selected and targeted to the right class of future leaders of the university so as to stimulate their interest in reading, reward the willing students with adequate technical skills to compete in the global market even as he expressed fervent belief that the books will provide the needed guidance in ICT/Telecommunications if they are put to good use.
According to Juwah’s address, the NCC remains committed to sustaining the growth in the telecoms industry while “this is only achievable through quality education and willingness of the nation’s undergraduates to make themselves eventually qualified to favorably compete in the global space.
Commenting on the country’s telecommunications industry presently, NCC CEO reiterated that the liberalization of the industry in Nigeria in year 2000 led to unprecedented growth in the telecoms industry such that “ Nigeria telephone subscription leaped from less than half a million fixed and mobile lines in 2000 to over 140 million telephone lines by first quarter of 2015” .
Similarly, that the number of telecommunications operators and service providers has increased significantly in the same period including increase in job opportunities.
He however remarked “Nigerian engineers and most especially young Engineers have sometimes not been able to take full advantage of the growth in the industry because of non availability of or inadequacy of relevant books and other publications which development has led to a substantial demand on the available human resources and encouraging Operating companies to become net importers of skilled telecoms manpower into the country”.
Elated by the books presentation, Okpara thanked the NCC for listing MOUA among the beneficiaries of its NBDI pledging that the books will be put into their desired use.
However, the MOUA Librarian, Dr. Ahiaoma Ibegwam pleaded with NCC to go beyond donating the books she noted were written by knowledgeable authors and international publishers and consider to erect and furnish for MOUA an engineering library similar to the one in the University of Lagos.