By OKOH AIHEProf. Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman of NCCBy Okoh AiheThat telecommunications services have gained traction in Nigeria can only be evidenced bythe encouraging figures coming out of the industry. Apart from the monthly reports of theNigerian Communications Commission (NCC) which put subscription figures at 226,426,215connected lines for the month of July, 2016, 150, 262,066 active lines, 92,181,178 internetsubscribers and a teledensity of 107.33 per cent within the same period, the NationalBureau of Statistics (NBS) also recently ascribed huge growth rate to the sector.
According to the NBS figures, the telecommunications sector of the Nigerian economy
contributed N1.580trillion to gross domestic product (GDP) in the second quarter of 2016,
or 9.8 per cent, which represents an increase of 1.0 per cent points relative to the previous
L-r: Prof. Umar Danbatta, EVC of NCC; Barr. Adebayo Shittu, Minister of Communications
and Tony Ojobo, Director of Public Affairs at NCC at the Corporate Governance Forum in
The industry has thus been hailed for remaining very strong and ready to continue to churn
out positive growth in very difficult moments as a testament to the possibilities that exist in
the country, possibilities that will always remain attractive to the rest of the world if properly
harnessed, packaged and projected.
Then enters Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian
Communications Commission (NCC). His vision is to take the telecommunications industry
to new heights by undertaking constructive engagements with key stakeholders whose
activities are quite capable of sustaining growth and promoting an industry that is primed to
play a positively determinant role in making Nigeria a connected country.
This demands lots of movements and negotiations and, in fact, deep appreciation of each
other’s relevance and importance in the build-out of a modern telecommunications
The foregoing forms the concourse of Prof Danbatta’s 8-Point Agenda which include:
Facilitate Broadband Penetration, Improve Quality of Service, Optimize Usage and Benefits
of Spectrum, Promote ICT Innovation and Investment Opportunities, Facilitate Strategic
Collaboration and Partnership, Protect and Empower Consumers, Promote Fair Competition
and Inclusive growth and Ensure Regulatory Excellence and Operational Efficiency.
An interesting part of the Agenda is that the various strands are quite measurable. They are
also intricately linked in the way they impact on the industry. It is quite possible to look at
the ground covered and the progress recorded within a defined period. Fortuitously, neither
Danbatta nor the NCC which he heads is scared of being measured. It should be considered
relevant here to note that the world has measured us since 2001 at the dawn of a new
industry and has marked Nigeria as the country with one of the fastest growing
telecommunications market in the world.
Instead the EVC has galvanized the Commission into reaching out to the various
stakeholders with the assurance that an industry that enjoys harmony is more useful to
everybody than a fractious one where stakeholders tend to contend for a little by way of
tax. He is preaching the gospel of the big picture which provides a cover for all instead of a
Danbatta has stated quite eloquently that “the regulator is not supposed to just sit down in
an air-conditioned office. There is the need for him to go out from time to time and be seen
to be discharging responsibilities diligently as the regulator of the telecommunications
industry in all ramifications.”
Executive Governor of Kano State, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and Executive Vice Chairman
of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta
At the Governors Forum the Commission made an impassioned presentation to explain how
their actions constitute the non-technical factors that conspire to degrade quality of network
and stem process of growth which in turn create clusters of service gaps. The Commission
pointed the attention of the Governors to the existence of a National Economic Council
Document which stipulates charges that should be paid whenever ICT infrastructure are
being built. The document states that Telcos should pay N145 for a metre length of fibre
rollout and another N20 of maintenance of the same infrastructure annually. But quite
unfortunately some states charge as much as N8, 000 per metre of fibre rollout.
Regretfully, Danbatta observed that “there is no adherence to the provision of the NEC
document and we are concerned about this indiscriminate regime of taxation that
telecommunication companies experience, especially those that are involved in deployment
of telecommunications infrastructure. These charges will obviously make it impossible for
massive deployment of telecommunications infrastructure. So, this is what most people
refer to as right-of-way issues. Big issues, on Right-of-Way, denial of access to sites and
locations for deployment of telecommunications infrastructure. And the main issue is this
very astronomical taxes that telcos are been subjected to and these are different amounts
for different locations in the country,” he submitted.
Prof. Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman of NCC and Senator Ibikunle Amosu,
Governor of Ogun State during a courtesy visit to the Governor recently
Plus the meeting with the Governors Forum, the Commission is reaching out to the
Governors individually to make exclusive presentations to them and also to tackle other
sundry issues that exact on the industry negatively. To date the Commission has visited
three Governors, namely: Mallam Nasir e—Rufai of Kaduna State, Alhaji Abubakar Ganduje
of Kano Sate, and Governor Ibinkule Amosun of Ogun State. Arrangements are being put in
place to reach out to other Governors.
The visits are a continuation of the Commission’s efforts to build bridges with the various
stakeholders and other development partners to explain how our various activities conspire
to knock down the efforts of the operators and how they inadvertently create clusters that
deny their people telecommunications services.
There is also a pitch: the readiness of the Commission to make intervention in helping to
take services to these clusters through a special budgetary provision of the Universal
Service Provision Fund (USPF). Danbatta projects that about 40million people are domiciled
in these clusters of service gaps which the Commission through the USPF will address
progressively. He frowned at the development where people would have to migrate to some
locations in order to make a phone.
“Such development,” he said, “flies in the face of our resolve, consistent with the 8-Point
Agenda, to ensure availability, accessibility and affordability of telecommunications services
to the Nigerian people wherever their places of abode in the country.”
Danbatta is excited at the results already generated by the efforts of the Commission. In
Kaduna State, Governor el-Rufai informed that the State has harmonized taxes, which telcos
will be charged for deployment of fibre; you will be paying the same amount of money
irrespective of which part of the State you are rolling out services.
The EVC NCC, Professor Umar Danbatta receiving the Award from the Honourable Ministerof Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu.After listening to a compelling presentation by the Commission, Governor Amosun of OgunState unsealed the 47 base stations that had been sealed by a particular ministry andmagnanimously reduced the ground rent owned on them from N370m to N120m. Danbattais grateful to the Governors for their understanding and readiness to embark on decisionsthat will accelerate deployment of telecommunications services to their people, and isfurther poised to ensure that such conversation is taken to any state of the country wherethere are issues.“We intend to continue with this advocacy now that we have seen the benefits and we willcontinue to inform Nigerians about the progress we are making,” he said.One of the cardinal programmes of government is to hit 30 per cent broadband rollouttarget by 2018. Danbatta’s gospel is that the telecommunications industry needs to have anunencumbered peace for the rollout to happen and for services to be available for Nigeriansbuild an ICT compliant society.*Okoh Aihe, Head, Online and Special Publications of the NigerianCommunications Commission, wrote from Abuja