National Assembly

By Sonny Aragba-Akpore

Elsewhere in the world, telecommunications, broadcast and the internet businesses have come under a single roof called convergence, but Nigeria still maintains multiple regulations for these services.

The only difference is the National Frequency Management Council which warehouses spectrum and assigns same to regulators of telecommunications and broadcasting accordingly.

But the reality on ground is that, both the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) should ordinarily converge for seamless performance like it is the standard practice in several countries.


The Stephen Oronsaye committee had proposed this merger in his report s few years ago but lack of political will is believed to have undermined the report of the Committee despite its painstaking exercise where it was submitted that the NCC and NBC be merged for effective management of both sectors as allowing them to run the way they are now amounts to duplication of functions and the idea of reducing the cost of governance will be achieved in the long run.

Triple play is now the standard practice in civilized world but it appears in Nigeria as anathema since jobs must be created for the boys so qualms having multiple regulators.

Triple play is achieved through convergence where telephony, the internet and broadcast media come under a single regulatory platform.


Convergence is already in various climes as these countries have been managing their systems in that regard. Examples of such regulatory authorities include: Office of Telecommunications (Oftel) in the United Kingdom (UK),Federal Communications Commission (FCC),Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA),National Communications Authority (NCA)

among others.

But while convergence remains a global best practice, Nigeria remains with multiple regulations thus trying to kill a single bird with many stones.

There are difficult roads to tread for convergence in Nigeria especially and trying to take the route taken by global ICT players.

“Although the minister said that NITDA held over 30 stakeholders’ engagements before pushing forward the bill, but industry players are worried and wondering where and when such were held, even when the minister claims “I am sure NCC was involved.”

And at a time when merging NCC and NBC remains a pipe dream, a third regulator is in the offing going by the proposed NITDA bill before the National Assembly lawmakers.

And if the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami succeeds in his last self-appointed assignment, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) will become a mega regulator submerging the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the NBC as the Minister is eager to push for a new Act for NITDA in the National Assembly.

The Minister had presented to the NASS a bill to repeal NITDA Act 2007 and enact a new Act whose provisions and mandates are allegedly derived from the mandates and functions in the Nigerian Communications Act 2003.Although it’s not clear what the Minister wants to achieve but industry players think that if this bill sails through, it will be goodbye to the NCC Act as its mandate and responsibilities may be taken over by NITDA.

In what looked like a curious movement, a stakeholders public hearing held at the National Assembly on December 23,2022 but because of its poor outing, it was adjourned to February 2,2023 .This too did not hold as it was postponed till further notice.

But the Minister has denied any ulterior motives for pushing the bill, even when there are very strong indications that he has deeper interests for the NITDA project.

The Minister said that both the NCC Act 2003 and NITDA Act 2007 were obsolete and long overdue for review due to imperatives of new technologies.

While further denying any ulterior motives for his actions, he claimed he had discussions with both the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC and the Director General of NITDA before embarking on the project and that the insinuation that he had tilted his position in favor of NITDA simply because he was its DG is unfounded.

According to him, the old Acts did not address the fourth industrial revolution and emerging technologies.

As he put it: “We are talking about Fourth Generation (4G) Technology and Fifth Generation (5G) Technology today as well as digital economy.”

“The NITDA Act was specifically on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, while the NCC Act dwells more on telecommunications.”

“And there was an agreement that both Acts needed to be amended.”

But what is before NASS is not an amendment but a repeal of the NITDA Act 2007 and enact a new one.

Although the minister said that NITDA held over 30 stakeholders’ engagements before pushing forward the bill, but industry players are worried and wondering where and when such were held, even when the minister claims “I am sure NCC was involved.” The Minister was quoted as saying “the NITDA Act focused specifically on the information and communication technology, ICT, sector, while the NCC Act dwells more on telecommunications.” The minister’s statement is not totally true.

“He is speaking about an industry where he has no exclusive knowledge. There is nothing about emerging technologies and things happening in the telecommunications industry today that some people still at the NCC did not know about 15 years ago” one analyst reasoned.

Industry players fault the Minister on his claims and like stakeholders say in general terms, the Minister is being economical with the truth as reality on ground “should educate the Minister that he does not have any exclusive knowledge about technologies and that the people at the NCC are well trained and attend regular refresher courses and programs from time to time.”

In terms of manifest duplications of roles, Section 5 of the proposed NITDA bill lists the functions of the agency that will be created and supported by the Act when enacted .With slight modifications these functions are similar with those of the NCC as clearly defined in Section 4 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003.

The NITDA bill is awaiting action by the lawmakers.

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