The Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) on Tuesday hosted delegates from over twelve (12) African countries’ telecommunications regulators to deliberate on how to provide strategic solutions to the plethora of challenges facing the industry in Africa.
The Conference of African Telecommunications Regulators on Consumer Affairs is a melting point of ideas and experiences from professionals, experts, regulators, service providers, consumers, stakeholders, investors and governments. It seeks to brainstorm on effectiveness, efficiency and ethos in the telecommunications sector.
Recall that the first edition of the Conference was held six years ago (17th-18th October, 2013) in Lagos,Nigeria, where, for the first time, telecom regulators from some African countries, including Nigeria, came together to discuss issues on how to harness regulatory policies to protect telecom consumers in Africa.
The 2019 edition, which is the 2nd edition of the conference, is holding in Abuja with the theme “ Empowering The Telecom Consumer in An Era Of Technological Evolution” . It promises to be the light at the end of the tunnel for the industry in Africa. The conference was declared open by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari,who was represented by a second- tier representative, Polycarp Sabo.
The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar G. Danbatta ,in a keynote address reiterated the fact that improving telecom services in the telecom industry, through effective regulations, has become essential not only to businesses but also to the entire national economy. Hence, access to seamless telecommunication services,he said,will enable consumers to be empowered to use such services for their businesses and, subsequently, contribute to economic development.
He noted , “most people and industries rely on improved telecom delivery to carry out their personal and official tasks more efficiently and effectively. This is why it has become important that we as regulators of the telecommunications industry, continuously hold fora such as this to engage relevant stakeholders to push the frontiers of improved service-delivery forward with the view to empowering and protecting the consumers”.
The 2019 edition of the conference of African Telecommunications Regulators (CATCO 2019), he said, was expected to critically examine, analyze, and identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to how telecom regulators can empower the consumers in this era of technological evolution.
Mr. Egoh Majemeta in a goodwill message on behalf of the Industrial Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF), stated that NCC has come a long way with very robust regulatory policies ,which are,usually, reviewed along technological evolution trends with utmost benefits to consumers since inception. This,he said,had led to a land mark achievement in the sector with increase in new operational strength over subscribers’ strength in June 2019. This feat ,Majemeta said, NCC was able to attain and sustain by strengthening the regulatory astuteness and aspects, which are telecom-friendly and consumer-centric by the introduction of State Accelerated Broadband Initiative (SABI) , the Nigerian Project which stimulates the utilization of ICT tools, lofty economic programmes initiation through the application of the Universal Service Provision Fund, code of conduct governance to the Commission and meticulous handling of the technical standard of network integrity, strategic guidance spectrum allocation, consumer-centred advocacy in cognizance of the fact that consumer is paramount in the industry.
The representative of the Licenses Telecom Operators of Nigeria, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo described NCC as the best regulator in Nigeria. He based his argument on the consistent availability and affordability of telecom services within the length and breadth of Nigeria. The above,he said ,was traceable to only one crucial element, which is stable regulatory environment provided by NCC. He ,therefore, made a case for the independence of the regulator while baring his mind on the vandalization of key infrastructure in the telecom industry and the need to protect such critical infrastructure.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation ,Boss Mustapha,in a speech read by his representative took cognizance of this era where advancement in information and communication technology (ICT) is changing the dynamics of economies globally. While establishing that telecommunications has become the enabler of economic growth,he applauded the sector in Nigeria for driving the Federal Government’s digital transformation agenda,which he informed, was aimed at boosting efficiency in governance in all key sectors of the economy, adding that the industry contributes 10% to the nation’s GDP.
This technological advancement , he said, presented enormous opportunities on one hand but constitutes threats on the other side for consumers ,especially, if not properly regulated,adding,in essence, that most technological reformations have changed the way we interact as nations and have also deepened the frontiers for the good , the bad and the ugly. This fundamentally,in his opinion, necessitated the need for regulators to be on top of their game in safeguarding the interest of the end users of this complex technologies.
“Globally, technological reformation has facilitated transformation in various sectors of economies such as banking, agriculture, healthcare, commerce, entertainment, transportation etc., thereby ,bringing efficiency in service- delivery as obtainable in our (Nigeria) economy today.”
This channel,Mustafa revealed, has also been highly hijacked and manipulated to the detriment of vulnerable consumers as demonstrated in the rise of E-fraud activities and cyber crimes.
The telecom regulators in the light of the above were charged to pay attention to how consumers are empowered to be protected from the antics of technological abusers. That underscored the relevance of the forum in the digital eco-system.
The SGF concluded by assuring the audience, especially, the regulators,that the Nigerian Government was committed to working round the clock to address challenges associated with the industry, ranging from
multiple taxation and regulation,
vandalisation of infrastructure and
direct foreign investment (DFI)