The National Assembly has set up an ad hoc committee to look into the prevailing challenges militating the growth and development of the nation’s Telecommunications sector.
This is as 7,000 telecoms masts face demolition by the aviation authorities.
The Chairman of, the House Committee on Telecommunications, Hon. Peter Akpatason, announced this on Friday during a courtesy visit to the Committee by the new executive of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, ATCON in Abuja, reports Vanguard.
He said the committee’s terms of reference would be to look into the myriads of challenges militating the growth of the nation’s Telecommunications sector, dissect them and come up with broad-spectrum solutions that would lay the challenges to rest for the benefit of the economy and the growing youth population yearning for job opportunities.
He applauded ATCON for its immense contribution to the nation’s economy in terms of 18% contribution to GDP and job Creation as well as other ripple effects of their services on other sectors of the economy.
Akpatason said, ”This Committee recognises the role of the telecoms sector in driving growth and Innovation, contributing 18% to the GDP. We stand ready for necessary legislative interventions in line with our goal of strengthening the existing relationship between the various stakeholders in the industry.”
In addition to the promise made, the House Committee Chairman assured that his committee would convoke a Stakeholders forum aimed at addressing all the multi-sectorial challenges bedevilling the telecom sector in line with the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Tinubu’s administration.
The idea, he said is to tackle issues ranging from insecurity, multiple taxation, Right of Way, and lack of access to funding, as well as erasing all bottlenecks constituting a clog in the wheel of progress of the sector.
To demonstrate the importance attached to the Committee, he said that the committee would be chaired by the Vice Chairman of the Committee, Dr Midala Usman Balami and consult all relevant stakeholders to make inputs in its proceedings.
Earlier, the President of ATCON, Tony Emokpere informed the house that they came into the strategic meeting to seek the support of the House in addressing the mounting challenges encumbering the growth of the telecoms sector of the economy.
He said ATCON felt that the intervention of the House became imperative given the fact that the performance of the sector impacts largely on the activities and performance of other sectors of the economy, hence the need for their legislative intervention.
“Our New NEC in our quest to fulfill its mandates to its teeming members has embarked on this strategic courtesy visit to the Representatives Committee on
Telecommunications seeks the committee’s legislation to create an enabling environment that would further increase investment into the sector as well as foster growth and development in the sector.
“As you all know, the sector currently contributes over 16% to Nigerian GDP, second only to agriculture and it serves as a source of employment to many Nigerians directly and indirectly.
“Our Vision is to facilitate as well as accelerate the growth and development of the Nigerian Telecommunications and ICT Industry through constructive policy
advocacies and effective collaboration with all tiers of government and privately
owned telecoms and ICT companies (local and multinational).
“The Association holds meetings with the government at all levels with the sole aim of collaboration to create an enabling operating environment for members as well as grow and develop the telecoms and ICT industry in Nigeria,” he added.
Tony, who shared thoughts on ATCON’s 30th Anniversary, issues confronting the Telecoms sector collaborations and policy advocacy and industry issues called for legislative interventions.
He further cataloged some of the challenges that are undermining the performance of the sector as follows: Challenges of funding; local content; multiple regulations; issues of Rising Cost of Doing Business; critical National Infrastructure; Wholesale Tariffs for Leased Lines; Right of Way and Government Stimulated Demand.
The ATCON boss, lamented that the Telecom infrastructure has suffered undue harassment from State and Local Government Regulatory Agencies, pleaded with the lawmakers to speedily pass the Critical National Infrastructure bill, saying, “It will be a welcome development if telecom infrastructure is legislated as critical National Infrastructure.
“This is important because telecom infrastructure is central to the country’s socio-economic progress. We seek this committee’s legislative intervention in passing this bill into law.”
Meanwhile, some of the committee members expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of telecom services provided by the industry operators and queried ATCON on the incessant cases of drop calls, data theft, and poor infrastructure upgrades.
In his response, the ATCON President said the issue of drop called is traceable to low infrastructure coverage, hence the need for government support in infrastructure upgrade and expansion.
On data theft, he said most apps on Android and other smartphones run continuously without control and advised users to switch off their data when not in use.
On diversification, he said the issue is already been addressed by ATCON members.
A member of the committee, Hon. Ademorin Kuye said, “If we want to encourage local content, we must be ready to take responsibility by matching foreign brands in terms of value and quality.”
On the request for waivers, he said the government has been receiving all manner of requests for waiver and insisted that the government would grant only those that would impact on the livelihood of the Nigerian people.
In the same vein, Hon. Jaafaru Yakubu noted that over 30 million Nigerians are yet to see Mobile phones and called on ATCON to expand its infrastructure deployment to cover the unserved areas, especially the rural communities.
He reminded ATCON of the recent threat by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA to demolish over 7000 telecom masts spread in various airports for alleged disruption of flight operations.
Hon. Afam Ogene also lamented the poor quality of service by the telecom operators and tasked ATCON members to be more visible in their CSR projects.
He specifically charged them to invest in football and other sports where their impact would be felt more by Nigerians.
In his remarks, the vice Chairman of the house, Dr. Mindala Balani assured ATCON that the Committee would work with them to provide quality and needed telecom services to Nigeria consumers.