Business Hilights
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Now Okpeke chaired new NBP, did her report resolve issues she raised earlier?

Several years back and precisely in 2018, the CEO of MainOne Cable Company and the chairperson of the new National Broadband Plan 2020-2025, Ms Funke Opkeke took a swipe on the then prevailing NBP which elapsed this year.

Recall that in 2013, the Presidential Committee on Broadband developed a five-year strategy to drive internet and broadband penetration and scale up the nation’s broadband growth by 30 percent.

But midway into the regime of the plan, stakeholder started picking holes in its efficacy and workability including the chairperson of the 2020-2025 NBP, Okpeke, who had on Tuesday with her Committee officials submitted their report on the new NBP to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami in his office in Abuja.

In 2018, Okpeke had opened up after observing that contrary to the target objectives of the then NBP, there had been observable slow national development, low attraction of foreign direct investment in telecoms and inadequate infrastructure due to the inability of the plan to lift the broadband development to the desired end.

Mainone Funke-Opeke
CEO of MainOne Cable Company and the chairperson of the new National Broadband Plan 2020-2025, Ms Funke Opkeke

Opeke, whose MainOne group was one of the operators feeling the negative impact, raised alarm that prospective investors who are genuinely willing to invest in the country are seen to be retreating when they look at the economics of investing in the broadband sector. According to her then, “Investors are willing to come to Nigeria. I have seen a lot of them who looked at the size of the Nigerian economy and wanted to come in, but once they start looking at the economics they pull out.

“They will tell you they have done it in Kenya, Ghana and other African countries, so, why is it too expensive to do here in Nigeria? The conditions are not just conducive at the moment to make such investment” she said.

Then, she averred that the remedy was for government to bring down the cost of infrastructure; be it Right of Way (RoW) or main infrastructure, adding that low purchasing power of Nigerian consumers has had a negative impact on the telcos.

She specifically regretted that “Nigeria’s Broadband Plan targets spreading 3G/LTE to at least 80 percent of the population while delivering a five-fold increase in broadband penetration, but this has not been achieved, thus hurting the prospects of the industry”.

However, now in 2020, fortunately enough, she was not just a member of the NBP drafting Committee, but the chairperson, the question is that whether she was able to work out credible solutions to the issues she complained about that frustrated industry players in the former NBP?

First in the challenges is the issue of RoW. Though the submitted report of the Committee is yet to be reviewed by the Federal Government before adoption, experts say if it failed to resolve the issue of RoW, it would simply return the sector to square one and it becomes movement without motion and clear direction after all.

NITDA BDPlan 22
L-R: Ayuba Shuaibu, Executive Secretary, Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF); Adeleke Adewolu, Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, NCC; Prof. Suleiman Elias Bogoro, Executive Secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund); Prof. Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman, NCC; Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Hon. Minister of Communications and Digital Economy and Ms Funke Opeke, Chairman, National Broadband Plan Committee 2020-2025, during the submission of draft report by the Committee to the Minister in Abuja on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020

Business Hilights recalls that only late last month, the Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Dr Kayode Fayemi, after a meeting with the Minister announced that all issues hobbling the telecoms and Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) on RoW had been resolved without giving any form of details the issued so resolved.

However, facts from our recent report (https://businesshilights.com.ng/exclusive-infracos-telecoms-yet-to-receive-any-notice-on-slashing-row-by-ngf/), showed that barely few weeks after the meeting and news on resolution of RoW by the governors, no telecom company or InfraCo said it has received any memo either from the minister or the NGF that RoW fees had been slashed. This, according to analysts may mean collpase of understanding between governors and their chairman, Dr Fayemi.