By Etuka Sunday
The Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, has led a delegation of the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) to the Honourable Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Pantami, to discuss critical industry issues affecting telecommunications operations in the country.
The visit on Monday was the first industry stakeholders meeting with the Minister which was facilitated by the Commission.
Tabling the sectoral challenges before the Minister, ALTON President, Gbenga Adebayo, listed and extensively discussed a number of issues confronting the operators. These include the problem of denial or exorbitant cost of Right of Way (RoW) by state governments, vandalism of telecoms infrastructure, poor or lack of access to public electricity to run telecoms operations, multiple taxations and regulations, the need for Executive Order to protect telecoms infrastructure, and the need for a national digital policy.
Adebayo earnestly solicited the Minister’s interventions requesting him to use his good office to address the issues in view of the significance of telecoms as a central and pivotal infrastructure shaping the economy.
Adebayo, who submitted a document detailing issues requiring immediate attention specially acknowledged the exceptional leadership of Prof. Danbatta as the EVC of NCC, stressing that the current upbeat status of the industry is largely traceable to the good regulatory regime instituted by the leadership of the Commission.
Earlier in his remarks, Danbatta said while the Federal Government, through the Ministry and the NCC, is committed to deepening digital access, the RoW issue, among several others, remains the biggest issue standing in the way of the accelerated telecoms infrastructure and by extension, broadband development.
“So, ALTON is led here today to talk, as a body, about the challenges they are facing as operators in the industry. We also believe that achieving Federal Government’s target of 127,000 kilometers of fibre across the country, which is critical to our broadband and digital economy drive, depends on how these industry issues are addressed.
Danbatta further commended the Minister ‘for the way and manner he had hit the ground running upon assumption of office’, adding that the Commission facilitated the meeting in order for the operators to ventilate their views to the Minister on various challenges in the industry and as a sequel to the report the Commission already presented to the Minister upon assumption of office.
Responding to issues raised, the Minister acknowledged that he was fully aware of 90 percent of the challenges confronting the operators through the NCC and that the Ministry had started making efforts to address the issues through engaging the President and other relevant government agencies.
Pantami disclosed that the Ministry is on the verge of developing a National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy which will be ready shortly. He also stated that efforts were ongoing to address all the concerns raised by the operators.
While assuring ALTON delegation of his unflinching support, Pantami said: “We are already working on some of the issues raised by ALTON. I have had continuous engagements with the President on some of the issues, we would study your submission and begin to address the various issues you have raised. Accordingly, we will also explore better alternatives besides and beyond what ALTON has recommended in its submission to us towards ensuring that the issues are dealt with in the interest of all Nigerians.”