2020 has been an (un)eventful year with a whole lot of ups and down, the economy witnessed a lull and dull especially during the Corona Virus pandemic which made the economy to be on lockdown. Many sectors of the economy witnessed a slow growth curve, telecommunication sector included. Though as Nigerians where at home observing the lockdown as it were in other part of the world, the telecoms regulator (Nigerian Communication Commission) did go on lockdown! The telecoms regulator, Nigerian Communication Commission headed by Umar Danbatta ensured that telecoms facilities were in top shape because a lot of Nigerians were tilting towards digital economy and working from home.
The regulatory agency prepared the telecoms sector for this situation and mandated them to provide the needed digital impetus and conduits that helped to keep the Nigerian economy afloat through seamless communication by individuals, businesses and government institutions in terms of voice and data services provided by telecoms operators, at a time when all other sectors of the economy were comatose – lockdown period of 6 months.
The stride the regulator made during this teething period of the nation was expedited and enhanced by the reappointment of the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta. With this continuity in the commission, the operations, regulations and implementation of roadmaps and blueprint was followed to the latter. A move that the industry stakeholders and watchers lauded as welcomed development, this is when the strides of the EVC has been analyzed over the years when he was at the helms of affairs. The reappointment was seen as a respite to an industry that needed a focused and knowledgeable person to pilot the affairs and Dabatta has done exceedingly well these past five years. So the reappointment was a testament of his commitment to the growth of the telecommunication ecosystem in Nigeria and Sub Saharan Africa.
In the year under review, growth statistics and major regulatory initiatives and policies undertaken by the Commission which have continued to put the industry on the consistent path of growth and keep the telecommunications sector resilient to support the national economy, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, are examined.
According to official telecom industry data, the telecoms contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased to over 14.30% as of second Quarter of 2020, according to data obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). In financial value, the 14.30% translates to N2.272 trillion in Q2, 2020. Whereas, telecoms contribution as at December 2019 was 10.60%. Also, telecoms investment continued to grow in leaps and bounds in 2020 beyond $70 billion.
Active mobile voice subscribers increased from 184 million in December, 2019 to 208 million by October, 2020. This represents an additional 24 million active mobile lines accessed by Nigerians across mobile networks from December, 2019 to October, 2020. Accordingly, teledensity (the total number of telephone lines per hundred people in an area) increased from 96.76% in December, 2019 to 108.94% by October, 2020.
The commission unveiled strategic roadmap that will be in tune with the current realties. This was unveiled during the mid-2020 around June. Running into million, the strategic plan is geared towards partnership with the academia and also to drive Information and Communications Technology (ICT) innovations in the academia and while also supporting innovative ideas among young Nigerian tech innovators. The two universities – the premier University of Ibadan, Oyo State and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi State, are endowed with N20 million each over the next two years to embark of massive research to promote innovation to drive socio-economic development in the country. This brings to four the number of tertiary institutions of learning that have benefitted from the NCC’s innovation-driving initiative, having endowed professorial chairs in Bayero University Kano (BUK) and Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) in May, 2019.
Remittances to the nation’s coffers grew in leaps. The commission contributed to the economy and improved on what it had in 2019. Total remittances by NCC into the Federal Government’s coffers from 2015 grew and reached N344bn in 2020. The revenue was essentially generated from spectrum sales, operating surplus and sanctions.
In line with the trend in telecommunications, apart from having an eye on the 5G, making the commission few in the continent that has this ambitious technological deployment in the continent, the commission took the bull by the horn by introducing eSim (Electronic SIM card). The commission allowed telcos to deploy this cutting-edge technology in the country. Approvals were given to two mobile network operators (MNOs), MTN Nigeria and 9Mobile, to carry out trial on the workability of embedded Subscriber Identification Modules (e-SIM) Service in Nigeria. The trial, approved to run for a period of one year, will involve testing 5,000 e-SIMs by the two networks, subject to compliance with a number of regulatory conditions.
Commitment to due process and regulatory framework saw NCC toping the list of the most effective government parastatals. Ranking highest in terms of compliance to ethics and integrity among other sister agencies under the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. The outstanding performance of NCC was contained in the recently released Ethics Compliance and Integrity Scorecard (ECIS), 2020 by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission’s (ICPC). With a total score of 81.15 per cent, the Commission topped the list among three other agencies under the Ministry, which featured in the intra-ministerial agencies’ ranking in ethics compliance and institutional integrity.
For effective operation and transparency in the industry, NCC commenced the implementation of the Accounting Separation Framework (ASF) in the telecoms industry effective which became effective July 15, 2020. The policy document, “Determination on the Implementation of an Accounting Separation Framework for the Nigerian Telecoms Industry”, which was developed via a consultative process in 2015, has undergone a comprehensive review by the regulator in collaboration with telecoms licensees and other critical industry stakeholders.
In the words of EVC, he opined that “the Commission considers the Accounting Separation Framework “as an effective, least evasive and less costly solution to implement to meet its regulatory objectives”, adding that the implementation of the Framework is also a key deliverable for the Commission in the new National Broadband Plan (NBP), 2020-2025.”
2020 saw a lot of collaboration between the agency and other government offices such as the Federal Internal Revenue Service (FIRS) etc. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in May, 2020, to ensure the tax agency ascertain accuracy and completeness of value added tax (VAT) elements and other taxes payable in the transactions of telecoms operators. With this MoU, the FIRS will be able to integrate an application programming interface (API) technology solution with the systems of telecom Operators for independent verification of the amount of VAT that should be paid by mobile network operators (MNO) rather than relying entirely on the Operators’ books of accounts.
With numerous strides in the industry, Danvatta and the commission was recognised in various awards in and outside of the country. The highest of which is Zik Prize won by Danbatta in the professional leadership category. The prestigious award, which was presented to the EVC at an elaborate and well-attended annual Zik Prize 2020 organized by Public Policy Research and Analysis Centre (PPRAC) in Lagos on Sunday, December 6, 2020, was in recognition of Danbatta’s excellence regulatory finesse, which has resulted in accelerated growth of the industry since 2015. Other awards received in the course of the year include: The International Public Relations Association (IPRA) Golden World Awards (GWA) 2020 won by the Commission for its harmonized emergency number, 112 and the construction of Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs) in 36 states of the Federation and the FCT with 19 states already operational and additional five ready for activation. At the Security and Emergency Management Award (SAEMA) 2020, the NCC was declared Winner of ‘Emergency Management Security and Emergency Management Award and was additionally presented with a Certificate of Excellence for ‘Outstanding Accomplishments in Category of Emergency Management’ at the award. The commission also received other numerous awards such as Nigeria Tech Innovation and Telecoms Awards (NTITA), Earlier in August, 2020, two awards, ‘Human Rights Telecoms Defender’. Also, in September, 2020, the National Association of State Assembly Legislators (NASAL) has in September, 2020, honored the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) and Chief Executive of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta with a “National Service Excellence Award” for his transformational leadership
By Anthony Nwosu.E
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