Telecom Operators Seek FG’s Support to Cushion COVID-19 Impact

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Emma Okonji

The newly elected executive members of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) have restated the need for telecoms financing by government, in order to cushion the negative effects on telecoms businesses, brought about by COVID-19.

The newly elected President of ATCON, Mr. Ikechukwu Nnamani, who spoke shortly after his election in Lagos at the weekend, said part of the focus of the new exco, would be to pursue telecoms financing for all members.
According to him, a lot of members have complained about the challenges of getting debt-to-equity access, and foreign exchange for those that require importation of technology equipment.

He promised that ATCON would continue to engage government in this and other areas. He also promised to strengthen the secretariat and help further growth of the industry by extending telecoms services to unserved and underserved areas of the country.
“Setting up funds for telecoms financing is one major agenda the newly inaugurated exco will handle. We need funds either through a Telecoms Bank set up by government or a dedicated fund outside of Telecoms Bank will suffice.

“Banks say they can finance telecoms operations but they offer loans at high interest rate, which will not help the growth of telecoms business. So we need a dedicated funding of telecoms operations by the federal government, so that both small and big operators can benefit from the funding.

“Again we will position our members in such a way that they can attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) to telecoms business. It will help them expand their sources of funds and not relying only on local inflow of funds. I am saying this because telecoms operation is capital intensive and we need funds to remain in business,” Nnamani said.

Speaking on the impact of COVID-19 on telecoms business, Nnamani said: “We are challenged by the adverse effect of COVID-19 pandemic, but again, the challenge spur us into action to become more innovative and today a lot of technology innovation can be seen in our tech space.

“For example, the COVID-19 pandemic made us to suddenly realise that the services of our initial five years plan are needed now and we have to wake up to that reality. So there is a need to accelerate the timeline to provide the critical infrastructure that is needed in today’s new normal, brought about by COVID-19.”

Giving the Association’s report from May 2018 to October 2020 during its Annual General Meeting (AGM), which was held before the commencement of the election, the immediate past President of ATCON, Mr. Olusola Teniola, said the association submitted a memorandum on the status of 5G network in Nigeria and its technological impact on Nigerian citizens, to the joint committee on communications, science and technology; and ICT Cyber Crimes. The memorandum according to him, formed part of the draft document on 5G network deployment that was released last week by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator.