The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Pantami has disclosed that the Federal Government would continue to protect the interests of all the stakeholders in the telecommunications sector.
The Minister revealed this while delivering his keynote address in a virtual sectoral forum organised by the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria, (ATCON) WITH THE THEME Meeting the interests of Government, Consumers and Telecoms and ICT Companies in the era of COVID19 and post COVID19 pandemic for digital economy development.
The minister further stated that the government’s interests is the same as consumers’ interest and it will continue to make concerted efforts at ensuring that the masses are protected.Dr Pantami tasked the members of ATCON to look into quality of service as most consumers are complaining of poor quality of service, reduction in the price of data, enhanced penetration of broadband and fairness to all consumers. According to the him, the Ministry will always try to strike a balance by protecting the interest of consumers and citizens on one hand and the telecoms companies on the other.
He stated further that government is working round the clock to meet the need of ATCON members by taking some of the steps which include protection of telecom infrastructures against vandalism, address the challenges of right of way levy and multiple taxation, working to review all taxes being collected from operators and giving priorities and reference to indigenous contents and experts.
The minster further explained that the Ministry is working on a policy that would reinforce the Executive Orders 003 and 005 in order to enhance local content promotion and empower indigenous manpower. On Right of Way, we have had an agreement with the Nigeria Governor Forum on uniformity in the price of Right of Way and advised the members to notify the ministry if they are having challenges with any state government.
Director General,National Information Technology Developmemt Agency NITDA Mallam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi in his remarks maintained that ICT would play a major role in the global effort at returning to the new normal adding that COVID-19 has triggered an unprecedented paradigm shift in the way of life and only the ICT sector can accelerate the development of Digital Economy.
The NITDA boss noted that broadband infrastructure remains the most critical infrastructure the nation needs to wither the storm of the pandemic adding that the connectivity drive of the government has made Nigeria a mobile-first market, with almost three-quarters of about 100m internet users consuming digital services using smartphones.
While assessing the impact of the broadband penetration, Mallam Abdullahi observed that various government’s efforts like reassigning of the ministry’s mandates to accommodate the digital economy plan, National broadband policy and Nigerian Digital Economy Strategic Plans had within eight months increased the broadband penetration from 32 percent to almost 42 percent.
The DG explained that NITDA under his leadership is focusing on other initiatives that provide the skeleton and flesh of the digital economy while broadband provides the backbone infrastructure for the digital economy to thrive.
Mallam Abdullahi listed what NITDA is doing to complement the broadband penetration’s efforts of the government to include Developmental Regulations; Digital Literacy and Skills; Solid Infrastructure; Service Infrastructure; Digital Service Development and Promotion; Indigenous Content Development and Promotion among others.
The NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Prof Umar Danbatta disclosed that the Commission has been trying to solve the challenges confronting the members of the association. He added that it has try to settle disputes between telecom stakeholders in one hand and also resolve the issue of Right of Way on the other hand.
Earlier in his address, the President of ATCON, Olusola Teniola commended the Minister for his unprecedented interventions in every issue that has hitherto plagued and constituted a setback to the sector.
He expressed optimism that with Pantami’s interventions and support, the challenges of Quality of Service, price of data and broadband penetration will improve considerably.
He pledged the association’s support to the initiatives and strategies of the Minister in ensuring that the industry operates in line with global best practice.