The Senate Committee on Communications has said it has made remarkable contributions to the growth of telecommunications sector through its oversight functions and legislations.
Recalling developments in the communications sector in the past few years, the Committee said that since its inauguration in September, 2011, it has been faced with a peculiar task of discharging its statutory roles in a manner that would make the young Communications Ministry to excel in its responsibilities especially given that every sector of the economy depends on communications.
In a statement by the Special Assistant on Media to Senator Gilbert Nnaji, Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Egbo Mon-Charles, said it was able to midwife the new-born ministry through the stages of adjustment and readjustments towards self-identity in a way that has brought enormous achievements to the communications sector.
Mon-Charles said Nnaji and other members resolved to key into the Ministry’s agenda as a means to fully realising the major benefits of the Transformation Agenda of federal government, particularly the Vision 20-20-20.
In doing this, Mon-Charles said the Committee had to set some target areas for immediate legislative interventions, including the review of the Nigerian Communications Acts 2003, facilitation of SIM Card Registration Bill passage, prevailing on the service providers and relevant stakeholders for call tariff reduction.
Other interventions, the Committee said, was on the improvement in quality of service, elimination of multiple taxation and other sensitive issues in the telecoms industry. It also proposed to seek to find out the cause of the unnecessary delay in take off of Rural Telephony operations in the country, in addition to initiating relevant legislative actions on the Nigerian Postal Sector Bill.
The committee, according to the statement, also adopted a working strategy of employing all manner of cooperation and collaboration with the relevant stakeholders to move the evolving ICT industry forward towards economic development.
According to Mon-Charles, through its effective and regular oversight functions, the Committee was able to decimate the challenges for-which today the ministry that was created barely two years ago is significantly very strategic to the Transformation Agenda and Vision 20-20-20.
“The ministry is obviously on course in all ramifications. Among others, Nigeria today has a harmonised ICT Policy in place which is fast-tracking overall economic development and has made ICT the fastest-growing sub-sector in the country.
“Again the ICT policy has reduced to the barest minimum, all the losses usually associated with duplication of duties by all the ICT-related agencies. NESREA and NCC can now work harmoniously towards national development especially in the area of telecommunications.
“The ministry has made remarkable progress in the facilitation of Nigerians’ access to Information and Communications Technology which now drastically reduced the number of un-served and under-served rural areas through broadband and infrastructural provisions. Computer and telephone ownerships have continued to increase compared to what obtained before now. And majority of government services are now delivered online meaning that most governments and agencies now have operational websites.
“Nigerians now appreciate the importance of communication technology in fighting crime and insecurity. ICT is now applied in health and agricultural developments. Recruitments into the ministry and these parastatals have become regular and transparent lately”, the statement added.
The Committee also noted that with its contribution, the NCC as a regulatory agency is living up to public expectations.
“At least there is in place today key performance indicator (KPI) and strict penalty in place for erring GSM service providers. These have resulted to gradual-but-steady improvements on the quality of services lately. There are also in place effective regulations on promos by telecom operators to ensure adequate consumer protection. Nigerians also at last know the rationale for spending a whopping sum of over N6 billion in SIM Card registrations.
“NCC, during the period, was able to recover over N300 million appropriated for the failed Anti-Phone Theft Project contract that was awarded before the emergence of this committee and of course NCC-initiated Mobile Number Portability (MNP) which would enable phone users to retain their phone numbers when changing from one mobile network operator to another is now operational while the toll-free emergency call centres located each in the capital cities of the federation are almost ready for operational take-off.
“All these notwithstanding, the NCC Amendment Bill is now before the National Assembly courtesy of Senator Nnaji-led Committee”.
The Committee also said Nigerians can now take due advantage of dividends of huge investments in corporations such as Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA) and Galaxy Backbone PLC in addition to the Nigerian Communication Satellite, NIGCOMSAT, Limited. These organisations, which were created to empower the citizenry, were relatively not known especially for academic and professional learning and researches.
“It took the aggressive monitoring of activities of these hitherto latent agencies for the masses especially the rural populace to know about them and their strategic importance to the economy”, he statement added.