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Minister, NCC cite conflicting figures on inflows in ICT sector

An official confusion capable of embarrassing the industry and causing distrust in the use of facts and figures coming from the nation’s telecoms sector is currently playing out between the leadership of the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) and the supervising Minister of Communications, Barr Adebayo Shittu.

Whereas at the just ended International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Telecom World 2017 in Busan, South Korea, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta made it clear to the whole world that investment in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector in Nigeria has hit $70 billion since 2001, last week in Lagos, Shittu, averred that about $60 billion US dollars have been invested in the ICT sector since the year 2001 when digital mobile services were launched.

Analysts who barred their minds on this data inconsistency described the scenario as the height of embarrassment and a show of poor synergy between the ministry and critical agencies under it.

NCC lead by Prof Danbatta explained in Korea that in 16 years since the Digital Mobile Licences (DML) were issued, investment in the sector has hit over $70 billion from a mere $50 million in 2001.

He said “Most of these investments are foreign direct investments (FDIs). Although we have made very modest progress in the sector, we still need to deepen investments to make broadband pervasive in the country. “We are at 21 per cent now and our target is to hit 30 per cent by 2018, consistent with the National Broadband Plan”.

However, the Minister hobbled the above data in a keynote address he delivered at the 6th European Union-Nigeria Business Forum 2017 held last week at the Eko Hotels, Lagos, quoting outdated 2009 World bank report which said that every 10% increase in ICT investments generates a 1.38% increase in GDP.

Industry stakeholders who generally pleaded anonymity in several telephone calls in unison, called on the Minister to always verify his data before rolling out to avoid giving wrong impression of what is happening in the industry which can affect decisions of prospective foreign investors and existing players in the sector.

One of the industry experts summerised his comments thus: “This figure by the Minister in Lagos is very disturbing. I wonder the source of his data from which the speech by the Honourable Minister of Communications was prepared.

It seems either the Minister or his speech writers have not been reading the newspapers both hardcopy and online versions since last week.

This is important because the ECV/CEO of Nigerian Communications Commission in his speech at the ITU Telecom World 2017 said over $70 billion have been invested in Nigeria’s telecommunications sector since 2001 with most of them being FDI.

“If telecoms alone has generated $70 billion, it presupposes that IT which makes up the ICT component would generate a lesser figure. If you had stated $70 or $80 billion for the ICT sector, no one would begrudge you but attributing the whole ICT industry to $60 billion since 2001 raises much question about the Research & Statistics Dept of the Federal Ministry of Communications.

It also raises question about the veracity of the data and statistics churned by the Ministry especially now that it conflicts with that issued by the telecoms regulator, NCC. The international community is watching us.

I expect that the minister harmonise his data before it is released in the public domain to limit chances of confusion.

However, analysts say it is important for the sake of clarifications for the Minister and NCC to organize a joint Press Conference where both parties will present a harmonised figure to end the confusion once and for all.