By Yakubu Musa
IN the last one year that Professor Umar Garba Danbatta assumed office as the boss of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), he has through his 8-point agenda improved tremendously on what his predecessors had achieved so far. It is worth pointing out that the NCC under Danbatta has significantly articulated a regulatory framework that will enable strategic and systematic licensing and deployment of broadband infrastructure across the country.
The telecoms regulatory agency has also set up a Broadband Implementation Monitoring Committee within the Commission to give proper assessment and regular appraisals of the plans. Although one year is not enough to assess one’s achievements in an organisation, it can surely signpost where the agency is heading to in terms of vision, strategies and implementation of set agenda.
This can explain why Tony Ojobo describes Danbatta’s one year in office as a ‘remarkable shift’ in the history of the leadership of the regulatory body. It is undoubtedly not the kind of testimony that you often hear from consummate public servants like Ojobo.
Nevertheless, there has been a notable consensus, so far, on Danbatta’s one year at the helm of affairs of the NCC. All of them bear eloquent testimony to the sterling qualities and innovations he brought to the agency. It has been gratifyingly positive. And, no doubt, it bodes well for the future of the industry.
Due to his laudable performance so far, the NCC had, in the last couple of months, carted home a basketful of prestigious, international awards. Similarly, the commission had recently beaten 63 other countries to European Society for Quality Research (ESQR’s), European Award for Best Practices 2016 at a ceremony held in Brussels.
This was only a few days after the NCC emerged as the African Regulator of the Year at the African Information Technology and Telecoms Awards (AITTA) in Ghana. Danbatta has equally been decorated with similar silverwares. Apart from being the recipient of the 2016 Telecom Personality of the Year, a recognition given to him at the 12th Nigeria Telecom Awards, the NCC boss was also recognized as Regulator of the Year by African Leadership Magazine in New York, USA.
Yet nothing, perhaps, provides a better, concrete proof of Danbatta’s eventful one year in office than the impressive statistics the industry keeps churning out, as revealed by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Needless to say, the figures the industry pulled off coincided with period of slow growth in the other sectors, amid daunting economic challenges the nation is faced with. But providence often throws this kind of gauntlets on the path of great leaders just to bring the best out of them. It will be recalled that the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, now the Emir of Kano, was so celebrated across the world for shielding our banks against the pitfalls of global meltdown.
It is thus gratifying that the telecoms sector is showing this resilience despite the current economic recession in the country. When the NBS posted the contribution of telecom industry to the GDP for first quarter of the year, Danbatta assured Nigerians that “We are poised to do more in the subsequent quarters.” He has been proved right.
According to the NBS’s latest data, the telecommunications sector’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the second quarter of 2016 was N1.580trillion, or 9.8 per cent, which represents an increase of 1.0 per cent points relative to the previous quarter. The industry contributed N1.4 trillion to the GDP in the first quarter.
Space won’t permit an elaborate recap here of all the major milestones garnered by Professor Danbatta in the last one year, but suffice it to note that many are of the opinion that the unveiling of his 8-Point Agenda, which is in line with strategic vision of the commission, was the turning point. It was what actually laid bare the kind of leadership the industry would expect.
Nonetheless, the sheer tenacity of purpose he has displayed in the improvement of contentious issues affecting quality of service and the nation’s quest to attain 30 per cent broadband penetration in the year 2018 has also earned him plaudits.
Indeed, Danbatta has raised the bar on stakeholder engagement at all levels. He has engaged the Governors’ Forum to push the National Economic Council’s resolution on multiple taxation and multiple regulations. The advocacy has been paying off.
When he arrived Ogun State, a few weeks ago, no fewer than 47 base stations belonging to IHS, were under lock and key. He was able to resolve the contentious issues, which led to sealing them at a one-on-one meeting with the state governor, Chief Ibikunle Amosun. The governor also reduced ground rent fee owed from N370 million to N120 million, courtesy of the visit.
Deepening of broadband penetration is the leading component of Danbatta’s 8-Point Agenda, but how has he fared in that respect?
The answer, interestingly, is provided by the former Minister of Communications Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson – the initiator of the formation of the National Broadband Strategy. In July 2016 performance report, she averred that from July 2015 to June 2016 broadband penetration in Nigeria grew from 10% to 14 %. Again, the ITU-UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development’s September 2016 report indicates that Nigeria’s penetration has reached 20.95%.
However, while the commission has fine-tuned the infrastructure provision licenses awarded for Lagos and North Central Zones, the five remaining zones under the Open Access Model would soon be awarded as notice has already been placed on the commission’s website. The recent bidding process for 2.6MHz Spectrum saw MTN Nigeria Ltd emerge winner of six slots. By the firm’s rollout plans, broadband services on this frequency spectrum will be available within the last quarter of 2016. Besides, a process for licensing of more broadband services on the 5.4 GHz Spectrum Band has been initiated.
In a bid to ensure quality of service to consumers, a high level task force has been set up by the commission to identify all the issues militating against quality of service in the networks. The reports of that committee, including those of the Telecom Industry Working Group, are being religiously implemented. Spectrum monitoring has been improved to ensure sanity in the industry, resulting in the realization of more than N47 Billion within the period.
In the same vein, the consumer has received a great attention under Danbatta’s leadership of the NCC. Apart from significant efforts to empowering consumers through educating them, the introduction of “Do-Not-Disturb-Code”, a dedicated short code: 2442, which enables the consumer to opt out of SMS platforms to which they did not subscribe was a novelty that’s been greeted with jubilation of all and sundry.
A lot of hard work is demanded especially at this teething stage of the directive, but the commission is not resting on its oars on account of the evident string of laurels bestowed on it.
No doubt, Danbatta came to an industry that is acclaimed for accomplishing so much; but due to its dynamic nature there still is so much catching up to do. He has so far matched high expectations with stellar performance.
Musa is the Special Assistant (Media) to the EVC – NCC.