By Emma Okonji
Telecommunications industry stakeholders have called on the federal government to revisit its fiscal and monetary policies, in order to create enabling environment that will boost infrastructural development and drive broadband penetration in Nigeria.
The stakeholders who met in Lagos last week at the focused industry stakeholders forum organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), faulted the deplorable condition of telecoms facilities across the country, blaming it on the harsh conditions of the country’s fiscal and monetary policies, which they said, were inimical to telecoms development.
The Executive Vice Chairman NCC, Prof. Umar Danabatta, while responding to the stakeholders’ complaints on the difficulties that telecoms operators encounter in rolling out telecommunications services in underserved and unserved areas of the country, said poor telecoms infrastructure has been a major challenge to rapid broadband development in the country.
According to him, the required infrastructure needed to drive fast broadband penetration is not available in the country and where such infrastructure exist, they are not adequate to enhance faster broadband penetration.
Danbatta expressed concern about the recent ranking of Nigeria as the 134th country out of 144 country ranked on Global Competitive Index (GCI) by the World Economic Forum, said Nigeria dropped in the ranking as a result of her poor state of telecoms infrastructure that was supposed to drive development in the country. He therefore called in the federal government to review its fiscal and monetary policies and allow tax waiver on the importation of some critical telecoms infrastructure that will drive broadband penetration in the country.
The forum was organised by the Universal Service Provision Funds (USPF) of NCC, to seek stakeholders’ contribution and collaboration on the best way to fund telecoms projects in the country that will lead to faster broadband penetration across the county.
The stakeholders also called on USPF to undertake telecoms projects like building of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS), popularly called base stations, instead of allowing the telecoms operators to build BTS by themselves, while expanding their networks.
They explained that the direct involvement of USPF in building of BTS would facilitate faster broadband penetration in the country.
The Secretary of USPF, Mr. Ayuba Shuaibu, however explained that the law does not allow USPF to undertake any venture capital project. He further explained that the law only allows USPF to encourage telecoms operators to build BTS and other telecoms infrastructure for service rollout through subsidy.
According to Danbatta, “NCC acknowledges the enormity of the task the industry has at hand in the area of driving broadband penetration and providing telephony services to the approximately 36.8 million people identified as underserved and unserved. These are groups, whose right to inclusive Information and Communications Technology (ICT) services we have continued to echo by stimulating and facilitating the deployment, utilisation and adoption of ICTs in their communities.”