The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has been charged to fashion out new ways of increasing the current $70 billion investment in the telecommunications sector.
Although several accolades were given the NCC for piloting the affairs of the industry incredibly well since the telecoms revolution began, stakeholders, however, said the sector can do more if identified bottlenecks are removed.
The bottlenecks include multiple taxes, over regulations, vandalism and theft, arbitrary Right of Way (RoW) levies, and incessant fines, and a host of others.
Stakeholders, who gathered at the NCC-organised maiden edition of the Nigerian Telecom Leadership Summit 2019, in Lagos, with the theme: “Repositioning the Nigerian Telecom Industry for the Future: Prospects and Challenges,” said the strength of yesterday might be too weak for the next level of growth envisaged to come out of the sector in the future.
Indeed, with the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, the NCC has been very instrumental to the phenomenal growth of the country’s telecommunications sector. For instance, investments moved from $50 million in 2000 to over $70 billion 19 years after the telecoms revolution.
Within this same period, the telephone lines also grew from about 400, 000 to over 174 million, majorly through the mobile platform. The networks have also grown from just being 1G to 4G. Nigeria has confirmed its readiness to roll out 5G networks by 2020. Nigeria can boast of 115 million Internet users, 63 million Broadband subscribers.
In the last 12 years, over N500 billion have been paid to government coffers as proceeds from sales of spectrum. As at last quarter of 2018, the sector’s contribution to the country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has 10.1 per cent.
From her perspective, the pioneer Minister of Communications Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson, decried that identified sector challenges from when she was a minister, are still very much around.
Johnson charged NCC to be more proactive in policies and advocacies, especially in tackling issues from states and their agencies.
She decried that the draconian and extant laws being used by state governors and other agencies of government to spin revenue from telecom operators was unwarranted, and called for full implementation of Executive Order in this regard will reverse the trend.
She said: “The Federal Government should give Executive Order to tackle out multiple-taxation in the country’s telecom industry. It should be a directive to the governors.”
According to her, the idea of engaging the state governors’ forum to step down on multiple-taxes has not worked in the past, “for me, the NCC must not be afraid to innovate or experiment. The regulator must take some risks to innovate. They are in a unique position to give action to state governors not to temper with telecom infrastructure, as it enables other sectors of the Nigerian economy,” she added.
Associate Professor, Lagos Business School, Dr. Doyin Salami, while speaking on “Implication of Multiple Taxes on Investment in the Nigerian Telecom Industry,” said the challenge of multiple taxes has ravaged virtually all sectors of the economy, with telecoms being hugely impacted negatively.
Salami noted that from investigation, the sector has been phenomenon, becoming the fourth largest sector of the economy in 2018.
Identifying that fresh $30 billion investment is needed to bridge access gaps in the country, he said Nigeria must solve the issue of multiple taxes as fast as possible if investors must come into the sector, noting that these investments are needed to upgrade the prevalent 2G and 3G infrastructure, “the future of telecoms is about co-creation.”
The Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, totally agreed with Johnson’s position, adding that the engagement with governors has been ongoing for years, but yet to yield results.
Adebayo harped on the need for the regulator to be more strategic to do something different, because multiple taxes and arbitrary closure of telecom sites always affected the quality of service, which in turn impact on other sectors.