Telecoms: New roadmap to bridging sector’s gaps

Despite the achievements recorded by the telecommunications sector so far, more work lies ahead.

While some of the improvements include the about $80 billion investment; active 190 million subscribers; 139 million Internet users, 40 per cent broadband penetration, and over nine per cent contribution to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), lately, President Muhammadu Buhari’s plan to digitise the economy further aligns with the need for more action in moving the sector going forward.

Indeed, challenges including inadequate infrastructural capacity, insufficient network backbone to ensure seamless telephony service, erratic power supply, vandalism and theft of telecoms infrastructure, multiple taxes, Right of Way challenges, and 114 access gaps, among others have continued to threaten the next phase of growth in the sector.

But in tackling some of these identified gaps, the unveiling of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Strategic Master Plan (SMP) for the telecoms sector by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, appeared to be a pointer to the next phase of growth, and possibly provide solutions to those inherent challenges.

Minister calls for action
Pantami, who admitted that there are still challenges in the sector, explained that the new SMP 2020-2024 by the NCC will be a pedestal to driving the implementation of the Federal Government’s digital economy vision.

According to him, the launch of the SMP demonstrated the Commission’s serious improvement in performance matrix, and its efforts in accelerating the implementation of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), and the National Broadband Plan (NBP) 2020 – 2025 of the Federal Government.

“I feel very excited for the fact that there is a serious improvement in the performance of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). The launch of this SMP 2020 – 2024 is a clear indication of that. When a parastatal is performing, it will create an innovative idea on how to be more successful. When a parastatal is not performing, you will not hear anything on how to implement policies and come up with different strategies and plans,” he said.

Pantami stated that despite the enhanced performance, there is a need for the Commission to redouble efforts. “We need to challenge and ridicule our previous successes by setting new records through the implementation of this SMP 2020 – 2024. The NCC Management must ensure effective implementation of this SMP,” he added.

Responding, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the SMP is the fulcrum that will aid the NCC in driving its telecom regulatory mandate in the fast-evolving telecoms industry, in the next five years. He said it will serve as a roadmap for the future of the Nigerian telecoms sector, taking into consideration the current and emerging trends in the industry and the numerous expectations of the diverse stakeholders.

“The Federal Government’s economic diversification plans are focused on a robust digital economy, which will improve employment generation, as well as encourage innovation. This was prime in our minds during the formulation of the SMP. We have invested great time and effort in ensuring that this document is pragmatic, and I am very confident and excited in its completeness to successfully guide the Commission in achieving the set objectives. We are committed to the implementation of this SMP,” the EVC said.

The strategic plan
According to Danbatta, the SMP 2020 – 2024 is the visioning document of the Commission for planning, monitoring, analysing, and assessment to meet its goals and set objectives for the industry.

Danbatta said it has five strategic pillars, which include regulatory excellence, universal broadband, promote the development of digital economy, market development; and strategic partnering and 25 intended outcomes. Five critical success factors identified for the implementation of the Strategy include ownership and commitment, effective communication, human resource capacity, development of and adherence to a strategy development manual; and implementation discipline.

The Face of the new SMP is captured in the acronym: “ASPIRE 2024” (A: Advancement through S: Strategy P: Professionalism I: Innovation and R: Regulatory E: Excellence).

Management push

Meanwhile, in an effort to drive the SMP and ensure the Commission performs effectively the task before it, Danbatta made some management changes.

According to sources within the Commission, the move was in line with the renewed commitment by the EVC to inject new ideas and energy into some aspects of the organisation’s regulatory activities, following his reappointment by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The senior staff members affected by the redeployment include Director, Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Department, Efosa Idehen; Director, Public Affairs Department, Dr. Henry Nkemadu; Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, and Director, Research and Development (R and D) Department, Ephraim Nwokonneya.

The change took immediate effect, as Idehen has now assumed a new position as Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, while Nwokonneya is the Director, Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Department.

Similarly, Adinde is going to be the new face of the commission’s Public Relations as the Director, Public Affairs Department, while Nkemadu has been redeployed to the Research and Development Department, where he was a deputy director before he was promoted and moved to Public Affairs department last year.

The new redeployment, according to sources at the Commission was in continuation of NCC’s ongoing restructuring exercise to ensure each department is properly positioned for optimal performance towards achieving the task of moving the sector forward.

“The new redeployment is also Danbatta’s bid to see that there are new thinking and new ideas as well as energy, especially in the compliance and enforcement of regulations, which speaks to national security, especially the issue of improperly-registered Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards among others, protection of consumers rights and interests, as well as to ensure effective management of the Commission’s reputation,” sources explained.

Like others, it was gathered that bringing Adinde on board, as the Director, Public Affairs from his former department, maybe one of the best decisions the EVC has taken in the new redeployment.

According to sources, “Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde is a consummate scholar much staff within the Commission and outside stakeholders believe has the charisma, cognate skills and finesse to run and sustain the effective management of the public image of the Commission. He is articulate and possesses public and media relations for effective stakeholder management.

Another source said that Danbatta, having been reappointed based on his record of performance in the last five years, “does not want to take any chances for the next five years, hence the need to make necessary changes where needed, to strengthen the Commission’s regulatory activities in the interest of the country.”

Stakeholders drum support
The Chairman Senate Committee on Communications, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, who was represented at the launch by Senator Obinna Agbo, noted that the new SMP 2020 – 2024 would ensure the Commission is on course to deliver on the mandate of the Federal Government for a digital economy. Senator Tinubu wished the Commission success in implementing the Plan.

Speaking in the same vein, Deputy Director, Corporate Planning, Strategy and Risk Management, Ms Helen Obi, said the development of the new SMP for the next five years was initiated following the lapse of the previous one and it would help the Commission to effectively harness its internal resources to deliver on expectations of its external stakeholders and the industry as whole.

“Our primary goal in organising the launch, therefore, is to present the finished work to our esteemed stakeholders and solicit your buy-in and support in ensuring that our shared vision and mission of providing best-in-class regulatory services towards achieving a digitized economy is sustainably accomplished,” she added.

Also present virtually were the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo; President, Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola; and President, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS). In their goodwill messages, they congratulated the Commission and expressed the hope that the SMP 2020 – 2024 will add the needed impetus to the implementation of the national digital economy policy of the government, promote equity and transparency, tackle sector’s challenges, and help to ensure the telecoms sector continues to contribute more to the economy.

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