The common understanding among stakeholders in the nations ICT sector is that the people including the government do not have enough information about the importance of the Information and Communication Technology, ICT industry and its infrastructure in economic development.
They spoke at a two day ICT appreciation Seminar on ‘‘Emerging Issues & Technologies in The ICT Sector’’ organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC for Abuja- based ICT Editors and Correspondents.
The challenges faced by the communications industry in Nigeria were largely as a result of poor perception of the industry and new trend by both the government and the general public.
The Chairman of association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, ALTON, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo speaking on the topic ‘‘Managing the Operational Environment in Nigeria’s Telecom Services Delivery ‘’, noted that the challenges faced by the communications industry had existed and ventilated over the years, with all tiers of government doing nothing concrete to address them.
He said instead, government contributes actively to these challenges and by so doing assist in limiting the ability of the industry to impact more positively on the attainment of the country’s development goals.
The ALTON Chairman represented by his Vice, Mr. Tobechukwu Okigbo highlighted some of the major challenges as: Multiple/Spurious taxation; multiple regulation; artificial constraints from government agencies and personnel, vandalization, inadequate power supply; inefficient legal framework and inability of government to prioritise telecom infrastructure.
Engr. Adebayo , said that the telecom industry had achieved much in the last 10 years for Nigeria to compete well in the global market and as such must go the broadband way, which according to him, would help in addressing some of the issues arising from poor quality of service.
He however, recommended that all relevant Acts relating to the industry be aligned with modern trends; that government should stop viewing the sector as a super rich by ensuring transparency as to the contribution of the sector to the federation account and also declare telecommunications infrastructure as critical national infrastructure.
He further recommended that all enabling laws be amended to address all myriads of challenges confronting the industry, this he said would not only enable the operators improve on service delivery but equally compete positively at the global stage.
He called for caution and warned that if active steps were not taken, Nigeria will continue to rank low in every index with regard to ease of doing business, adding that uncertainty constitutes one of the major reasons for the country’s abysmal showing.
‘‘Every facet of the economy is affected when business are constrained to operate under adverse conditions. Nigeria is beset by every serious infrastructure defects. The telecommunications sector is relatively successful because private industry provides the requisite infrastructure and drives operations. Government should support the sector by engendering the environment that will allow greater investment,’’ he said, and belief that When this is done, other sectors that require significant government support to attract requisite investment will be wary of committing resources to the country.
Speaking on the topic ‘‘Industry Development Perspective and Imperative of media awareness’’, the National Chairman of the Association of Telecommunications companies of Nigeria, ATCON, Engr. Lanre Ajayi represented by the CEO of Phase 3 Telecom, Mr. Olusola Teniola, said who bemoaned the harsh operating environment for the operators said the sector will continue to witness further growth as new telcos were already on the way to join the fray.
He lamented the lost of Nigerian telecommunications Limited, NITEL as a sole backbone infrastructure provider, which he said had created a huge gap in the basic provision of the infrastructure.
‘‘New Telcos are expected to join the fray and I am confident that the poor quality of service currently besetting the sector would be addressed with broadband. For us to have a better understanding of the industry, I think that journalists need to be conversant with the environmental challenges, which is not peculiar with Nigeria. The lost of NITEL in the market is regrettable because this has created a huge gap for operators to access backbone infrastructure provision,’’ he said.
On poor quality of service, the Engr. Ajayi said it is not peculiar to Nigerian but assured that the situation would be over when the ongoing Broadband expansion plans is finally implemented but stressed the need for journalist to inform the people with the adequate information relating to the sector.
The ATCON President who corroborated with Engr. Adebayo on the need for adequate awareness creation and creation of enabling environment for operators in the industry to thrive, however, underscored the need for government to alleviate all forms of multiple taxation orchestrated by inefficient laws.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, Engr. Eugene Juwah represented by the Director, Public Affairs, in the commission, Mr. Tony Ojobo said the long awaited Number Portability in the telecom sector is currently undergoing a pilot test and will come on stream before the end of the first quarter of this year.
The EVC said that the project was part of other major activities already pencilled down to be executed by NCC in the new year. Other project he listed include: conclusion of the SIM Card Registration programme, Broadband Expansion Initiatives, the Digital Awareness programmes, DAP and the Advanced Digital Awareness for Tertiary Institutions among others.
His words: ‘‘We have already mentioned that this year will witness a lot of activities in the industry. We are expecting the Number Portability to come on stream as well as the concluding aspect of the SIM CARD Registration programme, the ongoing Broadband initiatives, Digital Awareness Programme, the Advanced Digital Awareness for Tertiary Institutions among others. ’’