Stakeholders seek government’s collaboration to boost telecoms industry

By Na'ankwat Dariem, Abuja

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The President of ATCON , Mr. Olusola Teniola

Stakeholders in the Telecommunications sector have called for more collaboration with government, urging it to ensure right policy, protection for telecommunications infrastructure and access to funding for players.

This is in recognition of the huge role the telecommunication sector is playing especially during this Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the stakeholders, government’s support has become critical if the industry must sustain the efforts of ensuring that remote and virtual services remain, prices become more affordable and infrastructure becomes more ubiquitous, as the economy shrugs off the pains of the pandemic.
  
Those were some of the topics discussed at the virtual meeting  organised by  the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), to discuss: “The Socio-Economic And Political Impact of COVID-19 on Telecom and ICT Sector in Nigeria.”

The President of ATCON , Mr. Olusola Teniola, said it has become necessary to ensure effective regulation, development and building of local capacities for the speedy spread of telecoms and ICT infrastructure facilities across the country.

Mr Teniola also stressed ”the need to push for the buy-in of governments at all levels to encourage telecoms and ICT infrastructure development in states, by encouraging rapid investment through incentives such as tax holiday and provision of special intervention funds for the sector by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).”

The Executive Vice Chairman, Nigeria Communications Commission, Professor Umar Danbatta  said with the initiatives rolled out by the government, through the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy Nigeria has set the stage to over come the challenges that’s come with Covid-19 pandemic.

Under the leadership of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, the Ministry and the agencies have been able to develop the National Digital Policy and Strategy document, National Broadband Plan 2020-2025, the recent Presidential approval for Telecoms infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructure, CNI, initiatives to obtain approval of many state Governors to crash the Right of Way, RoW charges among other things, the stage is set to tackle the Post Covid era,”Professor Danbatta stated.

The Director-General, NITDA, Kashif Abdullahi said that remote working has come to stay, as the use of technologies increased tremendously.

He added that the tasks before government now ”is finding a way to sustain the tempo post-COVID-19, and ensure that ICT remains key to improving the economy.”

On his part, Africa Public Policy Manager and Connectivity, Facebook, Fargani Tambeayuk, who spoke from London, said the pandemic has emphasised the need for collaboration and importance of infrastructure roll-out.

According to him, post-Covid-19 will require Nigeria having quality broadband infrastructure, which can be achieved through good policy, partnership and investments.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) VDT Communication, Biodun Omoniyi, said ”Covid-19 brought a huge responsibility on the sector, “and we didn’t fail. However, lots still need to be done post-pandemic. Collaborations among players and governments at all levels will be key.”

Implementation National Broadband Plan

of The Country Manager, Avanti, Jane Egerton-Idehen, made case for faster implementation of the New National Broadband Plan 2020 to 2025.

She stressed the need for collaboration, especially between the sector and states governments that will further see to reduction of Right of Ways, as “Covid-19 has further stretched the some of the timing for some aspect of the plan to be realised.”    

Contributing, the CEO, Nigeria Communications Satellite (NigComSat) Ltd., Abimbola Alale, noted that Covid-19 exposed the ills of the digital divide, “but the ICT sector rose to the occasion and bridged the gaps.”

Alale also called for collaboration among players in the sector, saying, as much as this has become imperative, operators must have a common front to achieve more, if the government hoped to diversify the economy.

Mercy Chukwudiebere