First Term: Experts Score Buhari Administration High On ICT
By Funmilola Gboteku and Florence Onuegbu
The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Sector in Nigeria has witnessed tremendous growth during the first four years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Information Technology (IT) experts attribute the growth to the various friendly ICT policies put in place by the Federal Government.
Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) in his candid assessment, says the Federal Government has done quite well in the last four years.
“I think it will be fair to say a score of 80 per cent, owing to the progress the administration has made in the past years, ‘’ he notes.
Adebayo says the industry has made a lot of progress in terms of broadband penetration; hence, achieving the broadband target and even surpassing it.
“We have more Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) coming into the ICT sector and because of the relatively stable policy of government, the industry has been able to support a number of other sub-sectors of the economy.
“So, on the average, we are able to say that the Buhari’s administration has done quite well in the last four years,’’ he says.
Adebayo says unfortunately it appears that the progress of ICT in the country is being taken for granted.
He laments that telecommunication no longer has a mention by the government as one of the priority sectors.
According to him, it should not be, because ICT is a major driver of the economy.
“We are the infrastructure of infrastructure and we think that wherever issue of development is being discussed, ICT should be in the forefront.
“Other sectors that the government is making efforts to develop are all dependent on ICT in one way or the other.
“So it would appear that we are no longer in the first line of interest of government; which should not be.
“As you know, we are in technology industry and technology is changing by the day; hence, the need for new investments, for new hardware and software.
“So we think that as part of our development as a nation, ICT should continue to be one of the issues of development that we should consider,’’ Adebayo explains.
He says there is no enough protection of the industry by government, as there are issues of base stations’ closure and seizure.
Adebayo says the industry is quite vulnerable and such vulnerability has exposed the issues of multiple taxation and multiple regulation.
According to him, taxes and levies have increased to 39 across all tiers of government in the country.
“I think that government should consider harmonisation of the taxes and levies. Telecom is on the exclusive list of the Federal Government.
“It is the responsibility of the Federal Government to protect the sector, even from issues of interference, multiple taxation and regulation.
“So in my view, the major problem that we face is the issue of site closure and multiple taxation.
“We have issue of foreign exchange and government solved the problem. So the issue of multiple taxation is something the Federal Government must look into.
“I think the time has come that government should take up ownership and protection of infrastructure. We continue to require investments both foreign and local investments; and people will not invest if the industry is unstable,’’ he says.
Ikechukwu Nnamani, the Chief Executive Officer, Medallion Communications says the Buhari’s administration has done well in the arrangement reached by the National Executive Council in respect of Right of Way (RoW) fee.
Nnamani says a number of states have been able to lower their RoW rates, which has enabled deployment of more fibre infrastructure.
Muhammed Rudman, the President of Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NIRA) wants the Federal Government to prioritise significant investments in ICT infrastructure in the next four years.
Rudman notes that although through government’s contributions to the ICT, the industry has been able to deepen broadband penetration by 33 per cent but more effort needs to be made in ensuring that the rural areas also benefit from it.
He explains that the government already has laid-down policies regarding the ICT industry.
“The best time to implement the policies, which include the deepening of broadband penetration and building infrastructure is now.
“My advice is actually to have an ICT roadmap, that would ensure both the government and private sector identify all the stumbling blocks in the industry and address them.
“The players in the ICT industry should actually have an agenda that they will push to the government every year, so that the sector can grow,’’ he suggests.
Rudman points out that it will go a long way if the president can also resolve the issue of RoW and multiple taxation which are some of the major challenges faced in the industry, most especially by telecom companies.
He notes that those challenges were some of the things slowing down the telecommunications industry, while urging the government to address the issues.
The NIRA boss adds that the government needs to continue investing heavily in the sector, because it has played a big role in terms of revenue generation and also creating employment for citizens.
Also speaking, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, the President of the National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) says a lot has been achieved in terms of broadband penetration during the President’s four-year tenure.
“In 2014 to 2018, broadband was between 18 to 20 per cent.
“However, according to Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), we now have 33 per cent broadband peneration, which shows that a lot has been achieved in last four years of the Buhari’s administration.
“To sustain the growth, the government should set another benchmark for 2019 to 2023 where we should be looking at a minimum of 70 per cent or more broadband penetration.
“The government through some of its agencies like NCC is ensuring that Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) develop both the rural and sub-urban areas.
“NCC is supporting infracos by giving them some money to develop their structures and services,’’ Ogunbanjo notes.
He also suggests that government needs to have refined policies that will gear the industry toward achieving 75 per cent penetration by 2025.
Ogunbanjo urges the Federal Government to invest more in the sector because the ICT industry is the future of Nigeria, aside from oil and agriculture.
Most ICT industry experts are of the opinion that President Buhari’s administration has done quite well in the ICT sector of the economy and can do better in the second term.
The expert, however, note that the industry is a work in progress.
They point out that it is imperative to tackle the challenges of multiple taxation and multiple regulation, if further growth must be achieved in the ICT industry.
INEC Refutes Report on Appointment of Femi Odubiyi as Head of ICT
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has refuted a media report alleging that it has appointment one Femi Odubiyi, a former Lagos State Commissioner as its head of ICT.
Mr Festus Okoye, the INEC Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee said this in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja.
Okoye said that none of INEC ICT staff was named Femi Odubiyi adding also that none of its staff had held political appointment.
“The attention of the commission has been drawn to a widely publicised report attributed to a well known Lagos politician, Chief Olabode George, that INEC has appointed one Femi Odubiyi, a former Commissioner in Lagos State and an associate of a prominent politician, as its head of ICT.
“Nothing can be further from the truth. To set the record straight, the name Femi Odubiyi does not even exist within our ICT Department at the INEC headquarters in Abuja or any state office of the commission.
“Our ICT staff are career officers of the commission. None has held any political appointment in any state of the federation.
“The public is urged to disregard the story. Its promoter should have been circumspect so as not to be seen as a purveyor of fake news,” Okoye said.(NAN)
Nigeria Lost $82.7m to 2022 Internet Shutdown – Report
The economic cost of Nigeria’s internet shutdown in 2022 was $82.7 million. The new figure indicates a 94 percent decline in 2021’s value of $1.45 billion a Top10VPN cost of internet shutdown report shows.
The report stated that the social media shutdown by Nigeria also reduced to 287 hours last year from 5,040 hours in 2021.
“The Nigerian government extended the nationwide Twitter ban, first imposed in June 2021, into January 2022.
“Although the Nigerian government announced plans to restore Twitter access in October 2021, based on the condition that the social media platform would be used for “business and positive engagement”, the ban would not be lifted until the following January.The 222-day-long ban cost the Nigerian economy a total of $1.54 billion over the two calendar years,” it reports.
Ilze Brands Kehris, assistant secretary general of the United Nations human right office said that shutdowns are generally imposed without much transparency, justification, or judicial or democratic oversight.
“Internet shutdowns cause profound damage to our societies. Given their indiscriminate and disproportionate impact, governments should refrain from imposing shutdowns. It is a tool that is very hard to justify, if at all, under international human rights law,” she said, adding that such shutdowns can also have unintended consequences, such as disruption to supply chains or health and welfare systems.
According to the report, the cost of government shutdown rose by 325 percent from $5.6 billion in 2021 to $23.79 billion in 2022.
However, there were 114 major deliberate Internet outages in 23 countries last year, increasing total hours of government internet disruptions to 45 percent, 50,095 hours in the period under review.
A breakdown of the shutdowns include Internet blackouts which lasted for 23,097 hours. Internet throttling downtime stood at 134 hours while Social media blocks took a further 26,865 hours.
Also, 710 million people were affected by deliberate internet outages in 2022, up 41 percent year-on-year.
Twitter emerged as the most blocked social media platform, suffering 21,650 hours of deliberate disruption.
Webb Fontaine Urges Customs Server Disruptions Probe, Rejects Breakdown Claims
From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
The Managing Director of Webb Fontaine Nigeria Limited, Mr. Ope Babalola, has called for a probe into the recent repeated disruptions of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) online service platform, stating that “our servers are up and functional for 99 per cent and more of the time.”
Fielding questions from newsmen at the venue of the 2022 Annual Conference and Awards of the Association of Maritime Journalists of Nigeria (AMJON) in Lagos Monday, Babalola requested “a discussion” because “our servers do not break down and our networks don’t fluctuate or malfunction as is grossly reported in the press.
Babalola, whose company is the provider of the NCS’ IT and telecommunications infrastructure, and also manages the Nigeria Customs Integrated System (NICIS II), said he was disappointed at some of the stories “because we check and find that there is no problem with the server.
“The truth is that the reports were done without proper research on the issue. We at Webb Fontaine would prefer a more accurate reporting of exactly what is happening at the ports with respect to the servers.”
“There are dozens of things that could have happened, so it’s very important to find out what is going on before we report in the media. I hope that we can have proper discussions to talk about these challenges and work towards finding what the issues are, if any,” he said.
He also rejected insinuations of a lack of competence on the part of the customs officials, insisting rather that “over the years, they have been extensively trained and many of them are very good at the job. I think some of them will be surprised at these frequent reports of server breakdown that aren’t true.”
Babalola also assured that customs would have no problem after the full modernisation of its processes, stating that the agency already operates a paperless system. He noted that the Customs platform covers almost all Nigerian agencies in the trade cycle except a few key ones, like the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), which are not yet in.
“We are hoping that when the NPA gets its automation done, we can work together, so that everything could go smoothly,” he said.
Meanwhile, he disclosed that Webb Fontaine runs a fully automated and functional port community system in Benin Republic and several other countries which integrate with Customs and other port operators, and all enjoying the best of everything derivable from automation.
However, different targets might be impeding a common goal in Nigeria, where the ports are under the Ministry of Transportation, Customs under the Ministry of Finance, and Trade under the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
“So, in Nigeria we have three different ministries, sometimes with different objectives and goals. They also usually have different areas of interest and varying opinions on the best way to advance Nigeria’s trade and commerce.
“There is a very important need to put all of them together so that there is a single focus and single drive towards a one-stop shop for proper automation. We already have about 90 per cent of that in customs’ single window (trade.gov.ng). Most of the agencies are there, so I would suggest that those agencies that aren’t there join the platform and everything can be harmonised.”
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