The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta has reiterated the need for more public-private partnerships (PPP) to drive the country’s digital economy project. Delivering a keynote at the 2021 Conference and Exhibition on Information Communication Technology & Telecommunications (ICTEL) organised by the Lagos Chamber Of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Danbatta said the telecom sector is the most important sphere PPP should be adopted as it impacted the growth of other sectors.
Danbatta cited a 2012 World Bank report, which documented how PPP projects have been used to provide broadband access nationally, regionally, or in rural areas to improve broadband access to unserved and underserved locations. He added that the World Bank equally revealed in its 2021 report PPP that the PPP scheme is also helping in key areas of supporting the development of innovative policies, actions, standards, and technologies in order to connect the unconnected in any nation, create jobs, enable efficient natural resource utilisation, and electronic waste management.
He noted that in Nigeria, the NCC is known for its faith in strategic collaboration and partnership as a central principle of its stakeholders’ relationship management and regulatory activities. “Our daily regulatory processes are marked by consultations with a wide spectrum of stakeholders as well as strategic partnering and collaboration with both private sector players and other sister public sector organisations,” he said.
“In a concrete expression of belief in the centrality of PPP principles, the NCC, in November 2020, created a ‘PPP Unit’ as a division under its Special Duties Department. The Unit is overseeing the implementation of the NCC’s revenue assurance solutions (RAS) as well as the Device Management System (DMS) project.
“The two projects are being implemented in collaboration with private sector players. While the RAS is intended to address the revenue leakages accruable to the government, through the NCC; the DMS is intended to address the issue of type approval of telecom equipment and devices to ensure originality and standardisation because of the implication of substandard devices for health and quality of service. The DMS is also instituted to tackle the problem of SIM boxing and call masking, which not only constitutes threat to national security but also a mark of anti-competitive practice in the telecoms sector and a basis for loss of revenue in tax remittances to the government,” the EVC stated.
Danbatta added that the Commission has also continued to enhance existing infrastructure through the licensing of a category of private sector players known as Infrastructure Companies (InfraCo), who are to deploy fibre optic cable on a wholesale basis across the country with broadband Point of Access (PoA) in each of the 774 Local Government Areas of the country. He said that the InfraCo scheme is running on a PPP arrangement, where the government provides a counterpart fund as a subsidy to stimulate faster, more robust, and resilient broadband infrastructure rollout across the country.
He, however, noted that despite the various PPP interventions being undertaken by the government and similar initiatives at the Commission, a number of challenges persist in the telecom ecosystem. These, he said, include multiple taxation and regulation, Right of Way (RoW) issue, vandalism, poor electricity supply, and lately worsening insecurity. All of these factors affect both the tempo and quality of infrastructure rollout by the private sector licensees, who are the main engine of growth in the telecom sector. He said these challenges also affect the quality of telecom services and by extension the Quality of Experience (QoE) of telecom consumers.
While urging stakeholders to come up with PPP ideas through which the challenges can be addressed, the EVC reiterated that the Commission would continuously engage relevant stakeholders, both in the public and private sectors, in the country and beyond, in order to ensure that appropriate infrastructure befitting a modern digital economic system is available in the country to deepen government’s determination and commitment to total digital transformation of services in the country.