‘Telecoms Sector Needs $30bn for Infrastructure Development’


By Emma Okonji

An economist has said the Nigerian telecoms sector requires about $30 billion investment to boost infrastructure across the country.

An Associate Professor at the Lagos Business School, Dr. Doyin Salami, who gave the estimate during his paper presentation at the maiden Nigerian Telecom Leadership Summit 2019, which held in Lagos, said although the telecoms sector has empowered all other sectors of the Nigerian economy, it was still fraught with infrastructure challenges across the country, a situation he said, could be addressed if additional sum of about N30 billion was invested in the sector to drive telecoms infrastructure development.

Citing MainOne Broadband Company that deployed 7,000km of fibre optic submarine cable, running from Portugal through other West African countries to Nigeria, as well as the deployment of other submarine cables like Glo 1 and MTN WACS by Globacom and MTN respectively, Salami said telecoms operators were known for building and rolling out their own infrastructure, by way of ploughing back their revenue for network expansion, without government financial support. He, however, said the sector needed huge capital to continue with the building and rolling out of telecoms infrastructure, in order to serve the increasing number of subscribers, which the telecoms industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), puts at 173 million as at March 2019. The amount translated to a teledensity of 91 per cent, using the 190 million population of Nigerians as released by the National Population Commission (NPC).

Salami’s presentation, which focused on the implication of multiple taxation on investment in the Nigerian telecoms industry, called on the NCC to take a firm stand on the issue of multiple taxes coming from state governors and agencies of government, in order to protect the telecoms industry and the telecoms operators who struggle to provide telecoms services in the midst of challenging economic environment of the country.

He advised the NCC to take a look at the Cybercrime Law that was passed in 2015 by the former President Goodluck Jonathan, which he said contained some protective measures for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) operation in Nigeria. While wondering the height of impunity exhibited by some state governors and heads of government agencies in rolling out orders for the arbitrary closure of telecoms sites in the process of enforcing compliance on multiple taxes, Salami supported others who were calling for an Executive Order to stop multiple taxes in the telecoms sector.

Professor of Corporate Governance and Founding Partner, Kenna Partners, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu, who spoke on the role of mandatory corporate governance in the Nigerian telecoms sector, commended the NCC for introduction the Corporate Governance Code in the telecoms sector in 2014, which was initially voluntary for two years, but became compulsory in 2016.

According to him, “Telecommunications industry offers increasing growth opportunities for revolutionising Nigerian’s economy. Telecoms operators must therefore ensure their sustainability and profitability through the implementation of a corporate governance framework. “Operators must also ensure that corporate governance is embedded in the corporate culture and ethics of the organisation.

“Companies should not regard corporate governance as a mere ‘box-ticking’ exercise, but deploy resources into ensuring that the organisation is run optimally.”

In his welcome address, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said the Commission was aware of the daunting tasks ahead, hence it considered consultations with the stakeholders as critical success in its regulatory mandate.

He added: “From experience, this approach has yielded enormous positive results. We have engaged the Governor’s Forum collectively and individually, to address some of our challenges in the areas of multiple taxation, regulations and Rights of Ways (RoWs) and we are eagerly looking forward to the review of the resolution of the National Economic Council on RoWs issues, as they concern clearing impediments to deployment of telecoms infrastructure across the country.”