Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, FNSE, FAENG, FRAES, FNIEEE, Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive of NCC

ICTEL 2021: NCC committed to stakeholder engagement for resilient infrastructure to advance digital ecosystem ─Danbatta

*The Nigerian Communications Commission says the ICT/Telecoms sector in the country has grown significantly in investment with significant access to an array of voice, data and other kind of enterprises, resulting from its strategic stakeholders’ relationship management and regulatory activities

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has stressed the importance of commitment to exploring the Public-Private Collaboration (PPC), otherwise known as the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, to evolve a robust digital infrastructure, regulations, investment and policy in the Information and Communications (ICT) and telecoms ecosystem in the country.

Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, FNSE, FAENG, FRAES, FNIEEE, Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), stated this as the lead speaker at 2021 Virtual Conference And Exhibition On Information Communication Technology & Telecommunications (ICTEL) tagged: “Exploring Public-Private Collaboration for a Robust Digital Infrastructure, Regulations, Investment and Policy”

ConsumerConnect reports the ICTEL 2021, organised by the Lagos Chamber Of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), holds from Tuesday, July 27 to Wednesday, July 28, 2021.

The NCC EVC, who spoke the second virtual edition of the annual conference, the first of which first took place last year, following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic noted that he understood the overarching theme of this conference tagged, “Disruptions, Resilience and Governance in Digital Economy”.

Danbatta, however, stated that in order to optimise time and ensure focus of the subject, he limited his discourse principally to the Conference sub-theme titled, “Exploring Public-Private Collaboration for a Robust Digital Infrastructure, Regulations, Investment and Policy”.

According to him, the Public-Private Collaboration can be leveraged to develop resilient infrastructure that will advance our digital ecosystem.

Additionally, we are to reflect on how we can effectively implement regulations and policies as well as create an enduring collaboration between the private and public sector for the development of our digital ecosystem.

He said the PPP concept has become one of the commonly used model of collaboration among stakeholders to fast-track socioeconomic development whether at the global, regional and national levels.

The NCC Chief referenced how the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) April 2017, signed a Joint Declaration in Geneva, “on the advancement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular industrialisation, infrastructure development and innovation”.

According to him, the UNIDO and ITU, driving innovation in ICTs together with 193 Member States and over 700 private sector entities and academic institutional membership, planned to strengthen country-level collaborations.

The two agencies resolved to contribute to global, regional and national efforts toward achieving SDG9, and particularly through action plans that are designed to attract public-private partnerships and investment.

The collaboration between ITU and UNIDO, thus, represents a very important commitment from global organisations to deliver measurable and sustainable solutions within countries, towards achieving the SDGs, with a focus on “infrastructure, industry and innovation,” through a PPP arrangement.

It is on record that this kind of partnership is helping to fast track the realization of SDG9 with derivable quantifiable benefits to industry, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in emerging economies, said he.

Similarly, it is particularly of interest that the African Development Bank (AfDB), in a Danbatta said: “White Paper on PPP Framework released in September 2020, was emphatic that the infrastructure gap in African countries acts as an impediment to their economic growth and development.

“According to the White Paper, the gaps impact not only the economic situation of the citizens of Africa, but also the countries’ global competitiveness.

“The paper also estimates that poor infrastructure shaves off 2% of the per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rates.

“Suffice it to say that, the role of public-private partnership in infrastructure development in Nigeria cannot be over emphasised because an adequate, robust and functioning infrastructure is the bedrock of communal and societal development.

“Therefore, to meet future challenges, our industries and infrastructure must be upgraded by evolving an enduring PPP model that services all the sectors of the economy.

“Objectively, the high level of infrastructure deficit and its attendant effect on socio-economic development in Nigeria explains government’s concern and search for an alternative means of providing infrastructure for the Nigeria’s teeming population.”

He quoted further: “Thus, in 2005, the Federal Government established the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) with a clear objective to accelerate investment in national infrastructure through private sector funding; and to assist the Federal Government of Nigeria and its Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) to establish and implement effective Public Private Partnerships (PPP) processes.”

He explained it is gratifying to note that state governments in Nigeria have also adopted variants of PPP models in order to tackle the challenge of infrastructure in their respective jurisdictions.

The telecom and ICT sector, therefore, is the real ‘Infrastructure of infrastructure’ as it is often referred to because of its impact, efficiency and effectiveness on the growth of other sectors, it stands to reason, that the telecoms sector is the most important sphere PPP should be adopted.

The NCC EVC further noted that in Nigeria, the NCC is particularly noted 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 spectra of stakeholders as well as strategic partnering and collaboration with both private sector players and other sister public sector organisations.

“Following the liberalisation of the telecoms sector in 2001, the Commission has continued to facilitate investment inflow into the country’s digital space through licensing of many private sector players, who are deploying services in different segment of the nation’s telecom market.

“This has resulted in rollout of massive infrastructure ranging from the deployment of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) and laying of thousands of kilometres of fibre optic cables to every nooks and crannies of the country.”

As regards the application of the model in the country, Danbatta said that the ICT/Telecoms sector has grown significantly in investment with significant access to an array of voice, data and other kind of enterprises.

The Commission, he emphasised, 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 added: “This InfraCo scheme is running on a PPP arrangement, where the government provides a counterpart fund as a subsidy to stimulate faster, a more robust and resilient broadband infrastructure rollout across the country.

“While broadband penetration in Nigeria has reached 45% at the moment, from less than 6% in 2015, and by that fact stimulating digital activities in the country, there still exists access gaps which the Commission is making efforts to bridge.”

Danbatta, however, noted that in spite of the various PPP interventions being undertaken by the government and similar initiatives at the Commission, a number of challenges persist in the telecom ecosystem.

According to him, these 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.

“These challenges also affect the quality of telecom services and by extension the Quality of Experience (QoE) of telecom consumers,” he stated.

Danbatta, therefore, urged the panel of eminent speakers at the forum to suggest better and more innovative PPP approaches that may be explored by the government towards making our telecoms infrastructure safer, more resilient, more robust, and the country may attract more investment into the vital sector of the country’s economy.

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