The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami has disclosed that the federal government would continue to protect the interests of all the stakeholders in the telecommunication industry.
The Minister revealed this while delivering his principal keynote address in a virtual sectoral forum organised by the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria, (ATCON) which was endorsed and supported by the Ministry, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
The Webinar with the theme, “Meeting the Interests of the Government, Consumers, and Telecom and ICT Companies in the Era of COVID-19 and Post COVID -19 Pandemic for Digital Economy Development according to the President of ATCON, Mr. Olusola Teniola was organised with the objective of identifying various challenges the industry stakeholders are facing with the view of providing solutions to them.
The minister in his address said the government’s interests are the same as consumers’ interest and it will continue to make concerted efforts at ensuring that the masses are protected. “Protection of the rights of citizens and consumers is of utmost priority to the government especially those who are struggling and on the last rung of the ladder.”
Dr. Pantami tasked the members of ATCON to look into the quality of service as most consumers are complaining of poor quality of service, reduction in the price of data, enhanced penetration of broadband and be fair to all consumers. “In the Ministry, we always try to strike a balance by protecting the interest of consumers and citizens on one hand and the telecoms companies on the other, he emphasized.
He stated further that government is working round the clock to meet the need of ATCON members by taking some of the steps which include protection of telecom infrastructures against vandalism, addressed the challenges of the right of way levy and multiple taxations, working to review all taxes being collected from operators and giving priorities and reference to indigenous contents and experts.
The minister further explained that the Ministry is working on a policy that would reinforce the Executive Orders 003 and 005 in order to enhance the local content promotion and empower indigenous manpower. On Right of Way, we have had an agreement with the Nigeria Governor Forum on uniformity in the price of Right of Way and advised the members to notify the ministry if they are having challenges with any state government.
Also speaking at the event, the Director-General, NITDA, Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi in his keynote remarks maintained that ICT would play a major role in the global effort at returning to the new normal adding that COVID-19 has triggered an unprecedented paradigm shift in the way of life and only ICT sector can accelerate the development of Digital Economy.
He said, “The new trend has stimulated a surge in demand for digital services and is putting tremendous pressure on the existing ICT and Telco infrastructure. Therefore, there is a need for government intervention and regulatory instruments to help you – the sector players come out from this pandemic stronger than when you entered.
The NITDA boss noted that broadband infrastructure remains the most critical infrastructure the nation needs to wither the storm of the pandemic adding that the connectivity drive of the government has made Nigeria a mobile-first market, with almost three-quarters of about 100m internet users consuming digital services using smartphones.
While assessing the impact of the broadband penetration, Mallam Abdullahi observed that various government’s efforts like reassigning of the ministry’s mandates to accommodate the digital economy plan, National broadband policy and Nigerian Digital Economy Strategic Plans had within eight months increased the broadband penetration from 32 percent to almost 42 percent.
The DG explained that NITDA under his leadership is focusing on other initiatives that provide the skeleton and flesh of the digital economy while broadband provides the backbone infrastructure for the digital economy to thrive.
Mallam Abdullahi listed what NITDA is doing to complement the broadband penetration’s efforts of the government to include Developmental Regulations; Digital Literacy and Skills; Solid Infrastructure; Service Infrastructure; Digital Service Development and Promotion; Indigenous Content Development and Promotion among others.
The NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Prof Umar Danbatta disclosed that the Commission has been trying to solve the challenges confronting the members of the association. He added that it has tried to settle disputes between telecom stakeholders in one hand and also resolve the issue of the Right of Way on the other hand.