By Oko Aihe
The ephemeral of time is a mystery that humbles my understanding of life. Winks turn into seconds, seconds into minutes, hours and days, and so on. All the time, humans are trapped in transience, and many suffer the distortion of time.
In the undulating contour of this endless time are the activities and efforts of men, placed on a performance scale of success and failure, with the latter winning the game. In our part of the world, failure is a homogeneous cable linking the affairs of men; like the color of the rainbow, you can’t miss it in the sky.
We sew flaws in our seams and record more headstones than mile stones. The fiery ambitions of young men and women lie beneath mother earth somewhere in a very cold and desolate environment. And time passes.
Winks in seconds, seconds in minutes, hours, days and so on. Only a few break the odds, use their heads to break the rogue bogeyman, and record their achievements in milestones. In the face of countless difficulties, we still remember singing praises to this little batch. Nigerians are very grateful.
This very moment that I am looking at yesterday, to see how far it has moved away from the present. It doesn’t seem so far away and the memories are like the cozy green leaves of the banana.
Let the puzzles stop and let the story reveal its secrets. Just like yesterday, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, came to start a new life at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as Executive Vice President (EVC), away from the academy where he had spent most of his life, to contribute to the Commission’s regulatory successes. On August 4, which was yesterday, he ended his first five years in office.
Today, another lease begins, his term having been renewed by the President in accordance with the content of the Nigerian Communications Act of 2003 which establishes in Section 8 (4): Subject to sections 11 (3) and 11 (4) of this Act., Each Commissioner shall serve for a term of 5 (five) years from the date of his appointment, upon expiration of which the President may renew his term for an additional period of 5 years and no more.
Professor Danbatta is lucky. His term has been renewed by the president and this writer only hopes that one day he will survive the antics of those who have no respect for the laws of the land. History, sometimes, plays tricks.
With the opportunity for a new burst of energy assured, Danbatta is having a few moments of introspection to prepare the way forward, which I think is the hardest job. To use your words: “Now in the fifth year of the five-year vision plan, I can tell you that we have recorded appreciable successes on each of the items (referring to your 8-point Agenda).
We have increased broadband penetration to 41.27% in June 2020 from 5% in 2015, we have developed a regulatory framework for broadband penetration through licenses from infrastructure companies (InfraCo) and we have issued wireless broadband licenses.
For the second agenda, we have established a Working Group on Quality of Service and continue to engage critical stakeholders to address industry challenges arising from right-of-way issues, multiple taxes, multiple regulations, and the indiscriminate closure of base stations. active.
Regarding point three (optimizing spectrum use and benefits), the Commission has encouraged reprocessing of various frequencies to improve their efficiency.
Spectrum control has been improved to ensure sanity in the industry …… We have also facilitated the listing of telecommunications companies on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), we have developed and promoted compliance with the Code of Corporate Governance in the industry from voluntary to mandatory compliance.
We also developed a framework for participating in ITU working groups … Finally, we want to ensure the speed of Fifth Generation (5G) technology for at least five percent of the population. The NCC, in November 2019, pioneered 5G testing, becoming the first telecom regulator in West Africa to proactively begin such testing to unleash further digital disclosure.
We have also worked with stakeholders to develop television white space (TVWS) guidelines to extend affordable broadband penetration to underserved and underserved areas. “
This is a shortened version of that document. I looked up the MTN ticket but it wasn’t there. It wasn’t so much the money, N330bn, but the skillful management of the process that, if so, was enough to sink the industry. You may not like this point of view, but it was obviously a very difficult time for the telecommunications industry.
I also thought that the efforts of some state governors, led by Dr. Kayode Fayemi from the state of Ekiti, to stir up the cost of right-of-way (RoW), which was a pesky impediment to the widespread laying of fiber optic cables throughout the country, should have been duly highlighted in order to encourage the orders to join their progressive colleagues.
It seems so easy now, but not really. Negotiations with the governors began a long time ago, but formal results are emerging with Danbatta.
However, the challenges that lie ahead are much more than the achievements that have been observed.
Technology is mutating every day, changing shape, form, and usability, influencing ever-increasing demand in a market dominated almost equally by the rich and the poor, who have their eyes on tools and packages of convenience in terms of affordability and relevance of service. . Danbatta needs to choose a hit point as he launches into the future.
But he will have to fight the demons that create ghostly characteristics around large offices, making it difficult for even good men and women to speak truth to power.
You are familiar with all the statistics of achievement in the industry, but having excelled in the industry for almost thirty years, you can allow me a little freedom to observe that the industry is at a crossroads and needs urgent intervention from the regulator. The first point of impact is for Danbatta to regain regulatory independence from the Commission of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, whose notable intrusion is palpably pervasive and concerning to industry professionals.
There are so many people across the country who are very concerned about boosting the fortune, reliability, and relevance of our telecommunications infrastructure. Danbatta has quickly requested InfraCos for support in deepening the telecommunications ecosystem.
Responding to a position expressed in this column recently, a friend wrote: “Any solution that omits direct government intervention on the infrastructure side would be, in my opinion, cosmetic and palliative in nature. Yes, the government mistakenly believes that telecommunications is a lot like oil, a natural resource in which you can take rent without making an investment, but that is wrong thinking.
People should advocate for the government to invest in the development of infrastructure in the sector, as that is the only thing that can unleash the full potential of the sector. I appreciate that due to a lack of confidence in the government’s ability to deliver infrastructure, it is playing with alternatives like using subsidies to address that deficit.
But I tell you that it will be wrong, as experiences have shown that such a scheme will only end up as another bazaar for the anointed and connected.
We watch what is unfolding in the tutelage of other scarce resources that are close to cash only to imagine what will follow when it is the direct distribution of cash. We need to think outside the box by developing a model close to development that can produce the expected result.
The kind of example developed for the energy sector with the agreement with Siemens, without the biased and nepotistic abuse, you can explore if the government is serious and focuses on economic expansion.
The NCC should think outside the box quickly to make sure the entire nation is connected, otherwise its dream of widespread broadband penetration will be just a mirage. Let me add that without broadband modern society will regress to the Stone Age era. Penetration figures should mean more to phone users.
Danbatta should cling to the dream of introducing 5G, but should expand the projected availability beyond five percent of the population. You must also pursue the elusive quality of service that carriers provide with sheer vigor and strongly resist the temptation to go to the media celebration right now.
As Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, said in an interview with Charlie Rose at the World Economic Forum, Davos in 2015, “You don’t win the world by talking, but by working hard.”
The NCC must do much more to enable Nigerians to enjoy a better telecommunications industry. Professor Danbatta should resist the euphoric lure of the moment and engage in structured action so that the next five years will end not in a whimper but in an explosion, a moment to build a legacy milestone in the sands of history.