The Minister of Communications Adebayo Shittu has asked for the support of the Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) as critical stakeholders in Nigeria’s ICT sector so that the ministry can achieve its goals for the sector. Shittu spoke at a special reception organised for him by ATCON in Lagos recently.
While assuring the minister of ATCON’s support, Mr. Lanre Ajayi, presidentof ATCON said the “communication industry is contributing 8% to the national GDP and presently considered to be the fastest growing sector in the Nigerian economy.” Ajayi lamented the poor implementation of the National Broadband Plan which aims to increase broadband penetration from 6 per cent in 2013 to 30 per cent in 2018. He asked the minister to ensure accelerated actions on the implementation of the plan.”
The event had many major industry players present. They included the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta who was represented by the NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo, Mr. Leo Stan Ekeh, and Mrs. Florence Seriki.
Ajayi emphasized on the need for the ministry to map out a strategy to attract small operators to the unserved and underserved areas and to also to make some spectrum vailable to qualified operators for free.According to him, small operators can easily be mobilized to service small communities by giving them appropriate incentives like the free spectrum as it is being done in United States free frequencies are allocated to operators to attract them to underserved communities.
He commended the support of the South Korean Government for the eGovernement programme, but called for a deeper focus on locally developed solutions in our eGovernement development strategies.
The ATCON president lamented the poor handling of MTN fine and said it was imperative for government agencies not to see telecom operators as a cash cow. “When we were campaigning for the introduction of SIM card registration it was not our intention to use it to raise fund for government. It was not our intention to use it as a tool to kill telecoms operators and it was not our intention to create a tool that can be used to destroy our industry,” he said.
Ojobo who delivered Danbatta’s keynote spoke on how the growth of the telecoms sector had led to massive job creation across the nation and how the recently unveiled 8-point Agenda covering 2015 to 2020, would lead to massive broadband deployment in both urban and rural areas of the country.He stated that over $20billion have been invested in the telecom industry since it was deregulated
The NCC’s boss said that there may be challenges associated with network, but noted that it is still work in progress. He maintained that the 8-point Agenda for Telecommunication 2016 – 2020 is also meant to realize broadband penetration.
In his comments, the Minister applauded ATCON for the reception and for constituting an Advisory Council for the industry players. He assured the association that all the issues raised would be forwarded to the NCC and other establishments within the ministry to get their reaction and the way out of this issue.
Shittu said poor service quality of the telecoms operators was not acceptable and mustbe tackled. Also, spam and unwanted SMS to phone subscribers has become a bug that the industry must fix. His words: “I as a minister has been receiving these unsolicited text messages from the network providers. It is unacceptable and it put us on financial risk and piracy risk.”
He solicited for the ATCON’s assistance in making Nigeria’s ICT space a success. He informed the association of the plans to convert Digital Bridge Institute to a fully-fledged ICT University in no distant time. The Minister solicited for ATCON to support in providing the needed manpower that will be used to run the institution. He said President Buhari’s administration was looking at the telecoms industry as a tool to generate millions of employment for Nigerians and proposals from ATCON members are welcomed on how to make this project a reality.