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Pantami contradicts self on NCC over NITDA Act review?

Whereas the Federal Government through the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami, yesterday claimed that he has no plans to strip the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) of its powers for transmission to National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
Speaking during his presentation Thursday at the 19th edition of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s Scorecard for 2015 to 2023 in Abuja, he said there was no iota of truth in insinuations that the NITDA, was designed to take over the powers of NCC, but was quick to aver that both the NCC Act 2003 and NITDA Act 2007 were obsolete and long overdue for review due to imperatives of new technologies.
However, he was silent on why starting the review with NITDA Act of 2007 rather than NCC Act of 2003 which came first.
According to Pantami, “We are talking about Fouth Generation (4G) Technology and Fifth Generation (5G) Technology today as well as digital economy.
He added that “The NITDA Act was specifically on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, while the NCC Act dwell more on telecommunications,” saying “It is unfair that someone will say because I was once a Director-General of NITDA and therefore tilted towards it.”

Now, the question or point of contradiction by the minister is the inclusion of telecoms regulatory roles in the emerging NITDA enabling Act.
But industry stakeholders have made it clear before now, that the emerging NITDA Act as structured by the NITDA tends to move away from Technology development to regulations which remain the core role of NCC.

Director General and Chief Executive of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi

NITDA has the responsibility to implement the National IT policy, develop and regulate the sector, collaborate with the private sector and international organisations to actualise the IT vision, create awareness and ensure access to promote IT across all sectors, and ensure Simple, Moral, Accountable, Responsive and Transparent (SMART) governance.
In addition, NITDA is empowered to support local production of IT components to generate foreign earnings, create jobs, serve as a clearing house for IT procurement and services in the public sector, and empower Nigerians to participate in software and IT system development.
NITDA has since pioneered developmental projects for capacity building, provided legal framework for IT, bridge digital divides, boost digital literacy, job creation and national security.
Before now, members of the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and Paradigm Initiative are worried over the current draft NITDA (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill 2021, which seeks to convert the Technology Development Agency from a development agency to a regulatory agency.
This is son because the bill seeks to enact an Act that will empower NITDA to provide for the administration, implementation and regulation of Information Technology Systems and Practice in Nigeria, but the stakeholders are worried that the bill, if passed into law, will lead to overlapping regulatory functions between NITDA and the existing industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)
Many stakeholder say if passed into law, could slowdown development in the telecom sector, affect inflow of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) into the country, affect broadband and ICT penetrations and also reduce telecom contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) because there would be overlapping functions that would duplicate the roles of the NCC.
The bill, which was presented to members of the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on ICT and Cyber Security recently for public hearing, was however, not discussed, because some committee members observed that it was not proper to hold public hearing on such bill, when the promoters of the bill were absent from the public hearing.
CEO of Paradigm Initiative, Mr. Gbenga Sesan, in a statement, said the provisions in the draft bill have far reaching implications for the social media and technology organisations. “Paradigm Initiative is currently working on a paper that will state our position and it will be submitted to the National Assembly as soon as we are done,” Sesan said.
Section 9 of the bill empowers NITDA to develop a framework for regulating the use, development, standardisation, research, and application of information technology, emerging technology and digital services, activities, and systems in Nigeria, but the review puts it that Section 4 (1) (h) of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, mandates the NCC to develop and monitor performance standards and indices relating to the quality of telephone and other communications services and facilities supplied to consumers in Nigeria having regard to the best international performance indicators. The review therefore explains that the section will create a regulatory overlap for matters that relate to setting standards for communications services in Nigeria.

Rt. Jon. Olusegun Gbeleyi, Board Chairman, Digital Bridge Institute; Prof. Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission; and Prof. Sahalu Junaidu, Chief Research Adviser to Minister of Communications and Digital Economy during a visit to Governor of Oyo State.

The bill also empowers NITDA to issue permits and authorisation, including renewal, suspension, and revocation conditions to promote free market operation and competition, among others, but in the review, stakeholders explained that such provisions would create unnecessary duplication and an avenue for multiple regulation, as telecommunications operators will be required, under the provisions of the bill, to obtain separate permits or licences from NITDA, in addition to the operating licences issued by NCC. This will result in duplication of functions, over-regulations, and inter-agency conflicts, according to the review. The stakeholders are of the view that NITDA remains a development agency, while NCC remains the industry regulator as enshrined in the NITDA Act 2007 and NCC Act 2003 respectively.

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