ADDRESSING CRITICAL ISSUES IN THE NIGERIAN TELECOMMUNICATIONS SECTOR AND PROFFERING LASTING SOLUTIONS
The Nigerian Government needs to pay more attention to Broadband development if we are going to take advantage of this resources to accelerate the macro-economic goals of our country. Broadband remains a game changer for a developing country like Nigeria. The record has shown that counties like United Kingdom, United States of America and a host of others maximize the benefits of broadband to their countries’ advantage. All hands must be on deck for us to make a needed progress in terms of penetration, access, utilization and investment.
The just expired Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2013 -2018 had a lot of challenges to battle with and this contributed in no small way to its delayed set targets attainment. We must commend the current Minister in the person of Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami who did not waste time to constitute a committee which would put together the next Nigerian National Broadband Plan which is expected to run from 2020 – 2025.
Broadband has a lot of prospects to offer especially growing economies in Africa. A concentrated due attention would help us to take advantage of broadband in Nigeria.
- Employment prospect
- Economic development prospect
- Prospect for effective government operations and Runnings at all levels
- Prospect for governments revenue collections, allocations and management (eGovernment)
- Prospect for e-Learning, e-Agriculture, e-Health, etc
Challenges are meant to be surmounted and overcome but in the case of our country, challenges that are confronting our country seem to have come to stay because governments at all levels appeared to operating haphazardly and operating in a disjointed manner would not make us to reach our goals hence for the 2020 – 2025 Nigerian National Broadband Plan to have the planned effect on the generality of our country, we must have a common vision to leverage on the potentials and prospects of broadband.
- Incessant increase in the cost of Right of Way
The cost of right of ways has been on the increase and efforts by successive government to harmonize it have not yielded expected outcome. State Government and Local Government see it as their legitimate way to shore up the revenue base of their respective states. Prof. Isa Ali Pantami, is trying to address the issue the Presidency through Executive Order since the National Assembly has not really helped to tackle this investment leakage appropriately.
Unfortunately, Right of Way issues have continued to act as a deterrent to infrastructure investment in Nigeria. The rhetoric of Right Of Way Challenges to the provision of broadband services has been reiterated in the National Broadband ever developed wherein it states some of the challenges as being high cost of Right Of Way resulting in the high cost of leasing transmission infrastructure; long delay in the processing of permit; multiple taxation at Federal, States and Local Government Levels and having to deal with multiple regulating bodies and damage to existing fiber Infrastructure as a result of a cable theft, road works and other operators challenges.
The National Economic Council (NEC) has proffered solutions amongst other addressing the ROW problems by approving a policy harmonizing Right of Way charges payable on local Government, States and Federal Highways and stipulating a uniform cost of 145per meter for laying fiber network in every part of the country.
Despite the insurance of this policy, some states in Nigeria still charge over and above stipulated agreeable amount of #145 and a result of this, the entire country has not been covered in terms of telecom infrastructures.
- High cost of loans
The cost of obtaining loans and financing telecommunications infrastructure development through banks in Nigeria is higher because costs associated with loans like interest rates, management fee and a host of unmentioned processing cost are not business friendly to telecom business.
- Multiplicity of Taxes and Regulations
The Nigerian telecommunications and ICT sector is faced with multiple taxation and regulations and these two monsters have contributed to the slow pace of broadband infrastructure in Nigeria. It is a known fact that telecom companies are taxed and regulated by the three tiers of governments in Nigeria. The sector is meant to be regulated and taxed only by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) i.e it is only NCC that have exclusive right to play regulatory roles and collect annual operating levy from the telecoms companies but what we see today is that governments at state levels and local government levels have created agencies to control the activities of telecom companies in their respective domains which ordinarily should not be.
- Shutting Down of Base Stations and Destruction of Masts and Towers
The record has shown that base stations are shut down by either local government or state government without any prior notice to service provider and this usually accounts for poor quality of telecoms service in Nigeria. The NCC in collaboration with other stakeholders have been working seriously to put an end to that. As a matter of fact, the recent cybercrimes law frowns at it. This is another challenge that has impeded the growth of the sector in the sense that some miscreants have turned it to their businesses to destroy the telecom masts and Towers. The cybercrime law treats telecoms infrastructure as a critical National Infrastructure in Nigeria but it is yet to be implemented. The industry has submitted a position paper to declare the telecom infrastructure as a critical National infrastructure but up till the time this paper is being written. if this is done, the issue of shutting down Base Stations would be a thing of the past. The office of National Security Adviser had released a circular that before any telecom Base Stations is shut down its office must approve the shutting down but State agencies do not obey the order.
- Poor awareness and education on the importance of broadband on the part of states and local governments in Nigeria
The awareness in the area of importance of broadband infrastructure needs to be reinvigorated and made simple for all state and local government to understand as their continued harassment and shutdown of base stations can only be for a short time because with time, the revenue coming to them would stop and the implementation of the state budget would be affected. They should be educated on attracting more telecom infrastructure to their respective states as this would bring more companies to their states and they will have the opportunity to collect income tax and the residents of those states would have job opportunities and the rate of crime in their respective states would reduce. We can safely conclude that it pays to encourage broadband infrastructure.
- Lack of provision of security during and after telecoms infrastructure installations
The federal government should take it upon itself to make security personnel available during and after the citing of broadband infrastructure all over the country. We have cases of engineers and installers being harassed and beating to death in some instances. The broadband infrastructure is critical national resources which is needed for the socio-economic development of our country. The digital economy which our country is pursuing is going to be predicated on the availability of these infrastructure hence more attention needs to be accorded to it.
- Low Power Generation
The situation of power in Nigeria is not helpful to the development of telecommunications sector as each operator has to generate its own power. The cost of powering generators is very costly and since the demand for telecommunications service is inelastic the consumers usually bear the brunt. The National Grid has collapse more than two times this year alone and the price of diesel has also sky rocked . These two incidences put pressure on our members’ operations. Power generation is highly important to smooth provisioning of seamless telecommunication services.
- Lack of enforcement -poor attitude to technology by government agencies and institutions
In this aga and time, some government institutions at all levels are still manually operating and this has given birth to inefficiencies and high scale corruption. Some government organizations do not have presence on the web. The more people make use of digital resources the more attractive our country would be in terms of both local and foreign investor hence the need for speedy enforcement and change of attitude by public servants.
- Continuous existence of digital divide
The wide gap between living in the urban and rural areas is still very wide and broadband infrastructure remains the solution to close the gap. For instance, the rural dwellers still live in the stone age as they do not have right information and this has actually slow their level of civilization. Governments at all levels must direct deliberate efforts in respect of closing the wide digital divide in our nation.
- Lack of huge investment from government
This is a negative fallout of digital divide because profit making organizations are not willing to go to areas where return on investment are not guaranteed. The US government had to go to areas where companies are not going to make profits, Nigeria should borrow a leaf from this to extend the development being experienced in the urban areas to the rural areas.
- Spectrum management
The way and manner that our telecom scarce resources in terms of spectrum administration have to be further redefined and finetuned to reflect the current state of our industry going forward, in line global best practices. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) should continue to encourage secondary market for spectrum utilization in the industry.
- Delay in the utilization of other technologies like Tv White Space especially in the rural communities
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is already accelerating the adoption of Tv White Space usage in the deployment of broadband at least to non-commercial viable areas. We want to suggest that related technologies that can help in the nearest future should be quickly considered and rollout for the use our people.
- Interests on Loans for Telecom Infrastructural development must be single digit and special fund must be put aside for broadband development in Nigeria as these would accelerate broadband investment and result penetration and access.
- Adoption of broadband as a tool for national development would lead to an increase in productivity for both private and public enterprise by either removing or reducing the incessant cost of Right of Way and multiplicity of Taxes and Regulations as these would make companies that are in Lagos State, Port Harcourt and Abuja to replicate their presence in states that are ordinarily not commercially viable for investment. State governments can now generate their revenues from companies that have sprung up as a result of broadband development in their states which is more sustainable and enduring.