Still on Nigeria’s Performance at ITU Telecom World 2017


Yakubu Musa

Before the Super Eagles’ new hero, Alex Iwobi, fired the shot that helped to take Nigeria to 2018 World Cup, the country’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) community was already basking in the euphoria of another glory.

Nigeria had just carted away 5 major prizes at the ITU Telecom 2017 in faraway Busan, South Korea, in September – just few days before the Super Eagles made the nation proud again.

Winning the trophies, though a cherry on the cake, was only a part of the roaring trade the Nigerian contingent made at the global fiesta, which attracted the cream of the crop of the world telecom industry. ITU Telecom World is, no doubt, the most prestigious global gathering in the sector. If you want to, therefore, measure the connotation of these silverwares, you can’t go beyond juxtaposition with the significance of the stage they were won.

For those who are coming across the information for the first time, the ITU Telecom World, has named the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) the most Valuable Partner for its commitment and participation in ITU Telecom World events over the years. The commission was also awarded a certificate of Appreciation for the ITU Telecom World 2017 National Pavilion and thematic Pavilion as well as Loyal Participation and supporters of the yearly ITU Telecom World in a number of years.

Likewise, Nigeria, as a country, won the ITU Telecom World Government Award for being the government with the most innovative Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) included in the nation’s pavilion.

Three out of the 5 SMEs the NCC took to the event, Miss Temitope Awosika (Medsaf), Mr. Valentine Ubalua (Ubenwa) and Mr. Chizaram Ucheaga (Mavis Computel), also joined the ITU Global SME honours lists.
Yet, that is only on the laurels front. Nigeria’s participation at the ITU Telecom World, especially in the last two years, has always been underlined characteristically by aggressive and proactive advertising of the country’s investment opportunities.

This year did not record departure from the consummate mark. Perhaps the only variance is that the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof Umar Garba Danbata, seized the opportunity to explain to the rest of the world the Federal Government new regime of ease of doing business, as encapsulated in its economic recovery plan, as an extra incentive.

Nonetheless, if one is scouting for the right man for that kind of job for Nigeria, there’s, perhaps, no need to look beyond the former university don. He has in the last two years at the helm of affairs of the NCC succeeded in further entrenching a regime of transparency vis-a-vis frugality that saw the commission remitting a whopping N140 billion to the coffers of the Federal Government. This is despite that the NCC is essentially not a revenue generating agency.

The Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), has – after a painstaking exercise – rated the commission top among its peers in the area of institutional work processes. NPBSR hailed what it called “very strong business organizational structure, policies and practices that facilitate effective and efficient service” when it presented the platinum award to the agency.

However, the National Broad Plan, which sets the target of 30 per cent penetration by next year would always feature in the event, as it requires a massive injection of capital.

In his appearance at the ITU television studio, Danbatta noted that “The policies of the government are not limited to broadband. They are of course relevant to broadband. However, the Federal Government had recently introduced what we call Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. And in this plan, there is important role assigned to the Nigerian Communications Commission again to ensure deployment of broadband infrastructure.

“And the attraction of the provisions of this plan is that, you have incentives for investors including 30% reduction in company income tax plus a list of other incentive waivers of import duty for the importation of infrastructure equipment and so on and so forth”.

Speaking further, the EVC said as soon as they arrived at the Asian country, he and other notable delegations hit the ground running, spreading the glad tidings about the remarkable change taking place in Nigeria.

“We have been informing the investors at this important forum about all these very good incentives by the Federal Government as well as the ease of doing business this has improved significantly.

“There is an executive order as I am talking to you on transparency and efficiency in public service delivery and this is intended to ensure that approvals are granted without delay. There is even a disciplinary measure that can be brought to bear on agencies of government which deliberately refuse to grant approvals,” he explained.
But investors want to be assured about the safety of their investment. And this was what dominated the discussion at the investment forum session of the country.

Danbatta particularly seized the moment to cite the example of how the NCC, in collaboration with Nigeria’s apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), prevented a takeover bid for a telecommunication company by a consortium of banks back in Nigeria.

“The NCC is assuring the investors that our doors are open and that we will do whatever we can within the regulatory mandate assigned to us to ensure that their investment is safe and secure,” he pointed out.
He said the NCC would continue to build a reputation “of a firm but flexible agency”, which provides incentives to operators and potential investors in order to ensure the gains recorded over the past couple of years are sustained.

“We collaborated with a sister agency to successfully stave off the take over a telecommunication company by a consortium of banks. Banks are not competent to run telecom companies, they should concentrate their efforts on making the financial sector more robust, which I believe they are doing. I have no doubt about it.

“This company is now rebranded as 9Mobile and is providing services to over 20 million Nigerians. Nigerians are on the payroll of the company. The message we are sending out to investors is that in the NCC we are always committed to ensuring stability in the telecom sector of Nigeria as well as making sure the safety of the investment is guaranteed,” he said.

–––Musa is the Special Assistant Media to the EVC