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By Pita Ochai
As the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is intensifying efforts to promote local content in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector of the economy, some indigenous firms are allegedly involved in practices that hamper the strides of the regulatory body. Worried by such act, Dr. Eugene Juwah, Vice Chairman of the NCC recently slammed indigenous operators in the industry over ‘incompetence and culture of impunity’. Juwah expressed his dismay over the attitude of some indigenous firms at the recent edition of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) Telecoms Executives and Regulator Forum held at Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos. According to him, the Commission had in the past awarded contracts to indigenous companies only for them to collect money for the job and thereafter abandoned the project. He said that the Commission had to resort to the use of security agencies to call the erring firms to order.
He was particularly bitter that some of the companies that appeared to be reputable end-up disappointing the commission by getting the mobilization fee for the contract and ‘walk away.’ “Some well-known Nigerian companies often disappoint. They think they can just collect money and walk away. While we are clamouring to give contracts to indigenous companies, they must do the work they are given because if they don’t do it, we will not hesitate to report them to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). There is still a lack of competence (in indigenous companies). We must develop the culture of executing projects and not walking away after collecting money,” he said.
Juwah also blamed the inability of the regulator to complete the process that would have produced the first two licencees of infrastructure providers (Infarcos) on the fear of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) that is ravaging some parts of the West African sub-region. The foreign consultants hired by the Commission to handle the bid evaluation refused to come to the country because of Ebola. The Federal Ministry of Health has said there is no basis for anybody to fear Ebola, saying emphatically that there is no Ebola case in the country especially now that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has given Nigeria a clean bill of health. Juwah said that the NCC was already behind schedule on its plans to accelerate the processes that would lead to the realisation of the goals of the National Broadband Plan (NBP).
According to him, NCC will adopt the Open Access Model with seven Infracos, one each for the six geo-political zones of the country, while the seventh which would serve Lagos would be licensed to help drive the dream of the National Broadband Council. He said that realising the five-fold target of broadband penetration in the country from the less than seven per cent it is now to 50 percent by 2018 is not a mean feat.
According to him, to achieve the targets of the NBP, the Commission is using a two-pronged approach—the wireless and the wired. He added that 2.3gigahertz (GHz) spectrum that was auctioned in Abuja earlier in the year and won by Bitflux was designed to provide wholesale wireless services to customers.
Another spectrum will be licensed in the 2.6GHz band hopefully before this year runs out to provide wired services.
ATCON President, Mr Lanre Ajayi said the operators and regulator are always working towards achieving one goal which is to move the industry forward. He said over the years, the platform has helped to move the industry forward just as the NCC has used it to make clarifications about its policies while it has also provided an opportunity for the commission to get feedback from the industry practitioners.