ICT stakeholders flay capital flight from sector
• MTN denies allegation of funds repatriation
Stakeholders are seeking to incorporate a regime of local content compliance to curb capital flight in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.At a conference in Lagos, they said there was the need to review the existing local content policy in ICT drafted in 2013, with a view to fine-tuning it for presentation at the National Assembly and speedy passage into law.
The expressed concern that Nigerians were losing jobs and contracts to foreigners. Describing the situation as depletion of the nation’s economy, they blamed lack of the Local Content Development Law for ICT.They said had the law been in existence, it could have protected the interests of Nigerians and Nigerian-owned businesses.
Meanwhile, in a statement, MTN refuted media reports on improper repatriation of funds from the country.MTN said the reports referred to allegations made on the floor of the Senate that it had illegally repatriated $13.92 billion out of Nigeria over a period of 10 years in collusion with a number of commercial banks.
According to MTN Nigeria CEO, Ferdi Moolman, “the allegations made against MTN are completely unfounded and without any merit.” The National Coordinator, Office for Nigerian Content Development in ICT, Inye Kemabonta, said the implication of not having an existing local content law, meant doom for the sector.
At the NCC organised ‘Stakeholders Forum on ICT’, Kemabonta called on stakeholders to rise to the challenge and ensure the issue of local content in ICT was addressed to a logical conclusion. The stakeholders were worried that licensed telecoms operators in the county were mainly foreigners, who bring in foreign staff to handle jobs Nigerians could do.
They cited the case of MTN, which they said generated over $14 billion within a period of 15 years but moved the amount to South Africa where it is headquartered. They noted that with a local content law, such money would have been reinvested into the economy, to increase liquidity flow and improve the lives of Nigerians.
The stakeholders also blamed the Nigerian government for licensing more foreign operators to the detriment of local investors who have small businesses.
The President of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, said the absence of the local content law had created huge imbalance in the sector.
Teniola urged the stakeholders to correct the imbalance; restructure the ICT industry with a view to increasing its participation in the value chain; and stimulate growth and development in the manufacture of ICT products and services in the country.
Also speaking, a former ATCON president, Lanre Ajayi, regretted the way Nigerians were losing ICT jobs and contracts to foreign companies.Ajayi said the remedy was right policy and regulation, to encourage and protect Nigerians. He also stressed the need for development of local, institutional and human capacity building.
The Chief Executive Officer of Teledom Group, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, called on telecoms operators to stop importation of basic equipment, like switches, masts, and towers, and rather exploit locally sourced materials.
In his remarks, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta (represented by Director, Licensing and Authorisation, Ms. Funlola Akiode), said one of the factors affecting the continued devaluation of the Nigerian currency was dependence on importation of basic materials, manpower and services.
“For the industry to expand sustainably, we need to look inwards, re-organise our priorities and be less reliant on dwindling foreign exchange. Local content development will reduce the cost of business and increase available skilled human capital,” Danbatta said.
A member of the House of Representatives, Oghene Emma Egoh, urged the stakeholders to expedite action on formulation and presentation of the local content bill in ICT before the National Assembly, assuring the stakeholders of a speedy hearing.