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Telecom regulator not fully mindful of MNOs challenges in Nigeria—Investor

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A telecoms investor has hit back at the leadership of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), under the current Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Prof. Umar Danbatta and complained that issues bordering main network operators (MNOs) are not handled with the seriousness they deserve.

Speaking in an interview in Lagos, the investor who pleaded anonymity argued that two critical issues for resolutions tabled before the NCC in the last couple of years are yet to be attended to.

According to the industry personality, “Am referring to the auctioning of remaining 2.6MHz which only MTN Nigeria took six slots out of about 14 or so some years back and the inclusion of telecoms equipment in the growing listed of forex-barred import items.”

“If I may take your mind back at a forum organized by the same NCC at Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja in 2017 after it was discovered that only MTN bided for the 2.6MHz spectrum, it was on record that the EVC assured all participants that even before the end of the year, the Commission will harmonise views of stakeholders on the failure of the 2.6MHz auctioning process and come up with another well thought out process that will accommodate every interested bidder.

“This is going to three years, nothing has been heard from the Commission on the 2.6MHz frequency.

“To me, another area where the Commission has failed some of us is its inability to prevail on the Federal and States government to align with federal rates in Right of Way (RoW) so that InfraCos will be encouraged to hit the ground running in the delivery of the needed broadband infrastructure.

NCC Leadership Summit
Key stakeholders in Nigeria’s telecoms industry, officials of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Chairman of FIRS, Director general of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Is’haq Modibbo Kawu and executives of leading telecoms firms in Nigeria at the maiden Nigerian Telecoms Leadership Summit organised by the regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), held in Lagos on Thursday, May 23, 2019. Photo: Business Hilights

“If you can recall, chariman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo had at the recent Telecoms Leadership Summit at Eko Hotels in May this year, called on NCC to advise the presidency to issue an Executive Order that will criminalize instances of multiple taxation and all sorts of encumbarances faced by InfraCos. This is more than two months, nothing had been heard about that again which means that our plea was treated with levity while operators keep suffering known and strange tax regimes across all the states.

“We all know that no serious economy can grow better under the regime of mobile broadband, but the Commission is everyday rolling out figures on how Nigeria is growing in broadband penetration when no InfraCo is really doing much in their respective zones due to high cost of RoW, multiple taxation, fibre cuts, vandalism and other challenges.

Continuing, the expert pointed out a recent petition written to the NCC over a strange policy introduced by current Minister of Communications when he was in charge of NITDA which had not been attended to.

He recalled that ALTON had petitioned against NITDA’s policy trespass on NCC’s area of administration and regulation in August but yet to receive any form of reply or attention to the issue raised from the Commission.

According to him, “Even if the officer whom the petition is hanging on his neck is now the substantive minister in charge of the sector, that does not give any room for NCC to trivialize the petition because it was written as a policy position which is likely to affect investment and flow of the industry as the petition, ab-initio was not intended to attack anybody after all”.

The aggrieved industry professional and investor therefore called on the Danbatta-led Commission to put MNOs in mind the way it puts telecom services consumers because there are lots of things operators cannot handle which are begging for responses from the NCC.

However, speaking in Abuja weekend Prof. Umar Danbatta, while insisting that operators must to do everything possible to improve service delivery to the consumers on their various networks, was quick to recognize the existence of some challenges confronting the industry.

Represented by the Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB), Felicia Onwuegbuchulam, Prof Danbata averred that “Where a service provider continues to fail to improve services to the detriment of the consumers, the Commission will apply appropriate regulatory actions and sanctions against such service provider.”

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