By Rabiyat Usman:
The Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta , has said the quarterly contribution of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has increased to N1.6 trillion from 1.4 trillion. He added that the ICT sector was now contributing close to 10 per cent to the GDP annually. This was disclosed recently when the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, paid a courtesy visit to the FCT Minister Malam Muhammad Musa in his office in Abuja recently
According to the EVC: “Telecommunications and ICTs have contributed their fair share to the development of our nation. The contributions of telecommunications to business, governance, security, commerce, and social relationship in Nigeria have become very significant. The number of mobile and fixed line subscribers has averaged 150 Million within the first six months of this year from January to June 2017. Access to the Internet stands at 92 Million as at June 2017, while ICT contributions to GDP is close to 10 per cent as at the same month. Telecommunications has attracted more than US$68 Billion in private sector investment since 2001”.
Danbatta said “For the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, which is the seat of the Nigerian government, housing the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, including most agencies of government, the role of telecommunication is very crucial in many respects”, he reiterated. The Executive Vice Chairman said “Telecommunications play a very vital role in the provision of adequate security surveillance and helping security agencies to keep the city free of crime. Telecommunications assist in the resolution of crimes and apprehension of criminals. Telecommunications is vital to the wellbeing of the residents of the city. Telecommunications is the basic foundation for e-governance, e-commerce, e-health, e-education, and all the ‘E’s. Telecommunications play vital role in the mobilization of the citizens for development. In many respects, telecommunications is a catalyst for development and administration”.
Prof. Danbatta said “with the advent of broadband, the telecommunications landscape has changed dramatically and Nigeria striving to keep pace. ITU has credited our strides with 21 per cent penetration of broadband. This is a major outcome of the Nigerian Communications Commission’s multipronged approach to leverage the inherent potentials of broadband technology, which is the future of ICT. This is why we have consciously highlighted the “facilitation of broadband penetration” as the flagship of our 8-Points Agenda to guide our strategic focus for five years”.
“It is interesting to note that FCT belongs to the first set of two zones, (North Central and Lagos,) where the Commission has issued fibre infraco licenses, to enable broadband deployments in all parts of the federation using the Open Access Model. A new phenomenon that will be of interest to your administration is the concept of smart cities. The Commission is part of ongoing discussions about how to implement smart cities. Urban planners, city administrators, policy makers, ICT experts, ICT vendors are looking at how better connectivity, better security, cyber security, predictive intelligence, better environment and control, including transportation infrastructure, could be integrated to provide smart solutions for the city residents”, he continued.
While the EVC boss highlighted the challenges, he said “Operators are willing to collocate but we are yet to receive collocation guidelines from the FCT. We request that NCC guidelines on collocation be adopted by the FCTA. Furthermore, the sites FCTA offered for collocations are not adequate and do not suit the technical specifications of the service providers. It is advised that service providers be involved in determining collocation sites to ensure that the identified sites meet network and radio frequency standards of all stakeholders. However, where it is ascertainable that collocation sites are not possible, FCTA is requested to approve stand-alone installations”.
According to Danbatta other challenges are “the delayed harmonization positions on the astronomical increase in fees for building permits imposed by FCTA, retrospective FCTA laws that affect telecom facilities, complaint of operators to FCDA engineering department about frequent cuts of their fibre lines by road construction companies in the FCT, delayed approval for installation of base stations/fibre deployments, partial implementation of National Economic Council Resolution on Multiple Taxation, Levies and Charges on ICT Infrastructure in Nigeria”.
“It was agreed in a meeting between operators, FCTA and NCC in 2006 that the FCTA and NCC will meet and harmonize positions on the astronomical increase in fees for building permits imposed by FCTA. This has not been done and operators have continued to receive bills from the Administration based on the 2006 rates. Therefore, we request your approval to establish a committee made up of officers of the FCT and the NCC to resolve issues relating to charges to ensure that rates agreed are cost based and comparable to what FCTA charges are, for other users of properties. There is also a need to provide a legal backing for any new fee that will be agreed on” he added while talking on the 2006 fee regime of the FCTA.
As regards the retrospective FCTA laws that affect telecom facilities, Danbatta explained saying “Any law or policy by the FCTA that affect telecom facilities should not be made retroactive. We have observed that the fact that telecom services in the FCT were not envisaged during its initial planning has resulted in administrators approaching telecom facilities as a normal property, and visiting them with regulations that should not be applicable. We therefore requests that approval be given to all existing BTS in the FCTA except those that clearly pose a danger to its surrounding”.
Danbatta recommended that “there may be need for the FCT to partner with the private sector to make some of these services available. It is obvious that telecommunications is capital intensive and government has meager resources to share, therefore the reason for the deregulation of the industry. Articulation and planning for smart cities, provision of ICT Parks, provision of ducts for deployment of fibre to homes, and such other initiatives are possible to be provided by the FCTA through Public Private Partnerships, PPP.”
The Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Mohammed Musa Bello, said he is in full support and also willing to collaborate as he promised to do his best to strengthen the existing relationship between his office and the Commission. “Part of our job is to ease businesses and increase investment in the city and the country at large. We would support you in ensuring there is always increase in broadband penetration across the country,” Bello added. There will also be establishment of a committee consisting of the technical staff of the FCT as well as the NCC in order to sit down together to workout modalities for solving the challenges.