By Ijeoma Olorunfemi
The Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) on Friday called for House of Representatives’ support and intervention initiatives to develop the sector.
The National Executive Council members of the association made the demand when they paid a courtesy visit to Rep. Peter Akpatason, the Chairman, House Committee on Telecommunications, and his committee members in Abuja.
The visit was to inform the lawmakers of ATCON’s 30th anniversary, present issues confronting the telecoms sector, explore ways of collaborations and familiarise with the committee.
Mr Anthony Emoekpere, ATCON President, said some of the issues bedeviling the sector included the need for an enabling environment that would bring investment to the sector and foster growth.
Emoekpere also said there is the challenge of driving local content, funding deficit, multiple regulations and rising cost of business, among others.
“Telecom is a capital- intensive sector, requiring significant CAPEX investment to facilitate efficient communications service provision.
“We would like this committee to drive strategic engagement with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on behalf of the telecom sector to bridge the infrastructure funding gap.
“This can be done by providing accessible low-cost intervention funds for the rapid deployment of Broadband Infrastructure nationwide, including in rural areas.
“Though telecommunication is a global service, nations promote their local players in different ways, enabling them to compete regionally, globally, thereby raising a multiplier effect in their economy to repatriation of profits.
“There is a need for a concerted effort to shape the future of youths by sponsoring a bill to ensure that a Nigerian content plan exists in the industry,” he said.
He recommended that the committee can adopt the model practiced by the Nigerian Local Content Management Board for the Local Content Fund in the Oil and Gas sector.
Other concerns he raised were issues of rising cost of business, wholesale tariffs for leased lines, Right of Way, need for critical national infrastructure, adding that they are central to the country’s socio-economic progress.
“The Federal and State Governments should be encouraged to activate the use of ICT in governance, health care, education, agriculture, with the well documented attendant benefits to the socio-economic development of Nigeria,” he said.
Responding, Akpatason said the collaboration between the legislature and the private sector is believed to drive growth, innovation and ensure expertise inputs are considered in law making processes.
He assured the association that the committee was ready to assist in providing necessary parliamentary interventions and support when the need arises.
“In line with the committee situation to strengthen and sustain relationship with stakeholders, we will organise a legislative regulators stakeholders forum before the end of the year.
“This is for us to get acquainted and enhance our understanding of our challenges, goals and aspirations, as well as gain valued insight of the telecommunication sector.
“We are going to set up a committee, consisting of members both from the legislature and the association to come up with recommendations on all the identified issues.
“The government is interested in ensuring that businesses grow because the government cannot employ everyone,’’ Akpatason said.
Rep. Midala Balami, the Vice Chairman of the committee, said in developing local content, there is need to dwell on quality to meet global standards.
Balami also said the youthful population and skills of Nigerians needed to be harnessed to ensure that citizens enjoy real-time dividends of democracy.
Other concerns of the telecommunication sector raised by the legislators included vandalism of telecommunications infrastructure, diversification to rural areas, challenge of data theft and drop calls.
ATCON has a vision of facilitating, accelerating the growth and development of the Nigerian Telecommunications and ICT industry through constructive policy advocacies and effective collaboration. (NAN) www.nannews.ng
Edited by Muhammad Suleiman Tola