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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NCC turns 'mecca' over search for new EVC


Barely three weeks to the change of guard at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC), have turned into ‘mecca’ of sought, as cronies of potential candidates have continued to evolve new tactics to ensure the eventual endorsement of their preferred candidates.

Already, industry observers have said that it is imperative to ensure that whoever takes over from the out-going chief executive officer of NCC, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, must be an industry personality who understands the uniqueness of the Commission and the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector in general, in the bid to move Nigeria forward.

Basically, Ndukwe is to handover on or before Saturday, April 3, 2010. This means that his successors must emerge within the next 24 days.

Some of the names making rounds as hopefuls for ‘Ndukwe’s big shoes’ includes some senior staff of the commission and top opinion leaders in the industry.

They include Mr. Stephen Adedayo Bello and Dr. Bashir Gwandu who are both Executive Commissioners at NCC on Licensing and Consumer Affairs as well as Engineering and Standards, respectively.

Others are the President of Digital Bridge Institute (DBI), Prof. Raymond Akwule, President, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Mr. Lanre Ajayi, chairman of Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo and President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Dr. Emmanual Ekuwem, even as the former top officer of moribund MTS First Wireless, Mr. Eugene Juwa, and Umar Garba Danbatta of DBI, also were purportedly top on the recommendations of NCC board, which officials could not confirm at the press time.

But unconfirmed reports stated that the Commission at the end of its board session last month forwarded a four-man name to the Ministry of Information and Communications for onward approval by the Presidency, even though it was gathered that the Presidency is not bound to pick Ndukwe’s successor from the list and could opt to shop outside. However, those reportedly listed by the board included Dr. Bashir Gwandu and Messrs Stephen Adedayo Bello, Eugene Juwa and Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta.

In spite of this, industry analysts are of the opinion that if the choice of the new EVC would be determined by zoning formula, which earlier was awash in the sector and given the ruling party’s zoning methodology, tendency is that Ndukwe’s successor may come from the north of which only Dr. Gwandu is seen as closest in the NCC hierarchy and is in the good books of the board, even as Prof. Danbatta and Mr. Juwa, could be the best to give it a shot, even as the duo of Danbatta and Juwa may not have been very actively involved in terms of visibility and ability to manage such a big organization in the last five years.

Although Danbatta, currently the Vice President (Academics & Student Affairs) based in Kano, may seem elusive in the public glare due to his educationist background of quietude, the ‘Kano’ professor may not be far from political choice for such a position. While Juwa apart from being the senior vice president of MTS FirstWireless and seemingly influential during his days at the telecom company, much has not been heard of him lately until the countdown began in earnest in January.

ITRealms Online gathered that the current politicization of President Umar Musa Yar’Adua’s ill-health could work against such option, given the recent attitude allegedly attributed to northern ruling elites.

Another factor likely to kick against the zoning of the chief executive officer of NCC to the north is the fact that the Acting President Goodluck Jonathan is from the south and may decide to veto the situation, though some stakeholders think he may use that opportunity to appease some of the southern elites, who are not relenting either, especially those from South-south otherwise call ‘Niger Delta’ axis.

For this school of thought, the kind of political will and elements needed in personalities contending for the position could be best find in the south, hence it could be an easy ride.

Noteworthy is that since the creation of NCC under Decree 75 by the Federal Military Government of Nigeria on November 24, 1992, the post of chief executive officer cum executive vice chairman, had always come from the south and precisely the south-east in the last three successions; Eze Cletus Iromantu, who is now a traditional ruler and Dr. Emmanuel Nnama, who is presently into private practice and telecom advocacy.

In the event it would be decided to go for the South-west, Stephen Bello, Lanre Ajayi and Gbenga Adebayo could be those top on the list. Equally, if it has to go to south-south, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, Executive Vice chairman, ZOOMmobile, Mr. Kenneth Aigbinode and Prof. Raymond Akwule, president, DBI Abuja are the reputed personas contending for that position from the zone.

Relatively, Prof. Manny Aniebonam was linked to have interest but given the fact that the first chief executive of NCC, Dr. Emma Nnama and incumbent were from the same State of Anambra, hence, it would be difficult to still see him as a ‘serious’ contender, one of the analysts declared.

But in this current setting, anything could happen, although for most industry stakeholders, all they want is a personality that knows the sector very well to continue on the strides made in the last 10 years by Dr. Ndukwe.
Bello:

An x-ray into some of the contending forces for the ‘Telecom House’ shows that Stephen Bello, an engineer with over 30 years’ experience working as a professional in the private and public sectors as well as the academia. He has considerable international exposure through working with world-class multinational companies.

Within 30-year expose in the telecommunications sector, Bello obtained a B.Sc. in Electrical/Electronic Engineering from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in 1975 and was a Pupil Engineer with the National Electric Power Authority during his one year youth service.

October 1976 saw Bello joining ITT (Nigeria) Limited as an Engineer-in-Training and soon after he was sent for a two-and-half year on-the-job training in some ITT companies in Europe, passing out with Advanced Certificate in Telecommunication Engineering before his return as Senior Project Engineer.

Bello joined GTE (Nigeria) Limited in June 1980 as Senior Project/Sales Engineer and moved to the Department of Electrical Engineering of the University of Ilorin in June 1987 as Principal Technologist, rising to the position of Chief Technologist in 1995. And in 2000, he was appointed Director, Engineering at NCC and in 2005 promoted to an Executive Commissioner.

Gwandu:
For Dr. Bashir Gwandu, after receiving BSc in Physics from Usman Danfodiyo University (UDU), Sokoto and an MSc in Applied Physics from University of Jos, with a brief stint in Engineering service at the Tactical Air-command, Makurdi and back to UDU to lecture for a while, Dr. Gwandu went to the United Kingdom (UK) for MSc courses in Power Electronics, Drives and Communications Engineering at the University of Birmingham.

He returned briefly to Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto to lecture before going back to the UK for a PhD in Electronic/Electrical Engineering at Aston University and subsequently got an MBA Finance at the Birmingham Business School.

Aside from being known for designing several devices that are used in the telecom industry with some of them patented in Europe and United States, Gwandu is a Chartered Electrical Engineer, and a full member of the three main International Electrical Engineering Institutes; that is the IEE UK, IEEE USA, and IEICE Japan. He has published over 36 Electronic and Electrical Engineering Research papers.

In addition to lecturing in Engineering, Gwandu also worked as Finance analyst cum Forensic Accountant at ABR Associates and Hays Finance, apart from working as an advisor for a number of engineering companies in UK and served as a General Manager for a telecom company in the West-Midlands, UK till July 2005.

And 2002, Gwandu devoted his time to research work on Regulation of Utilities. He also attended many courses on Telecoms/Utility Regulation in many countries around the world.

His major, Engineering research focus and publications are in the areas of UHF/VHF transceivers, Optical communications, DWDM filters, add-and-drop filters, Radio-on-fibre filters, fibre lasers, microwave and radio frequency systems, dispersion management in long-haul optical fibre links, Erbium-Doped Fibre Amplifiers (EDFAs), optical fibre sensors, underwater transducers, digital modem design, methods for requirements capture and analysis to mention a few.

Supervising spectrum planning and management, quality of service monitoring and network optimization, equipment type-approval, numbering plan, allocation and management, currently at NCC, Gwandu became Executive Commissioner in Charge of Licensing and Consumer Affairs of the NCC until June 2007, among others.

Gbenga:
For Gbenga Adebayo, his position as the chief operating officer of then, VGC Communications Limited, in 2004 sold him out to the Nigerian followers of developments in the ICT sector. From one parliament session to another, Adebayo would prefer to be at all the Telecom Consumer parliaments to give insights on his network and others as the need arises.

For a long time, he was consistent and therefore, endeared himself to the consumers and even the bigger operators that when the parent company of VGC decided to dispose the VGC Communication which he had groomed from a community telephony to regional and today has been transformed into a national operator; despite the pressure to stay on, even after MTN bought over the wire-line network operator 100 per cent, Gbenga decided to explore a new frontier in network infrastructure support services, when he set up Communication Network Support Services Limited (CNSSL) Nigeria, with focus on Fibre Optic Cable (OFC), copper, access, VSAT and wireless networks respectively.

For most industry stakeholders, Gbenga Adebayo is a young, highly respected engineer who, no doubt, has been an active player in the industry during the years of the Telecom Revolution in the country and still is. He is also known to have what some described as ‘enviable passion for telecommunications development in the country as often demonstrated by his vigorous roles in the industry-based activities.

Apart from showing the stuff he was made of, his leadership in the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) soon after he assumed office as the chairman, saw to the keenly contested court battle between ALTON and Lagos State government over multiple taxation, which gave credence to his continuous campaign for the Federal Government to maintain the rule of law by insisting that this is upheld nationwide by Nigerians and governments at all levels seeing telecommunications infrastructure as ‘critical infrastructure’ that should be protected at all time.

Also, ALTON under his leadership has maintained a focused organization, mostly based on the objectives of the association which is in line with the desire of every operator to diffuse ICT services to the population in the country. It was not surprising that the group sought for 60-day shift of the date for Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) registration, which invariably was heeded by NCC in moving the commencement date from March 1 to May 1, 2010, among others.

Gbenga between 1989 and 1990 served at the Ogun State Television Service (OGTV) coming out as a best youth corp member of the year award, along with a State Honours Award, even as he later was presented with a presidential commendation from the former President, General Ibrahim Babangida in 1990. This paved the way for his automatic employment by the Nigerian Navy, the Ogun State Ministry of Information and OGTV where he eventually took appointment as higher technical officer.

Later, Gbenga Adebayo joined Siemens AG Germany as products sales engineer and after putting in 10 years, he migrated to VGCCL in 2000.

Ajayi:

As soon as the evolution of the worldwide web (www) embedded in the world of Internet began to emerge and attract public interest in the early 90s, especially in a developing country like Nigeria, Lanre Ajayi, had already started making names in the world of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

Although a staff of the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) at that time, Ajayi was among the team selected to develop a Nigerian digital communication system in 1992 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States of America (USA), while he was undergoing his post graduate programme at home.

Presently, Ajayi is the chief executive officer, PiNet Informatics since it was founded over 15 years ago, and is known for a number of designs while working in NITEL’s Research and Development Department, which were patented by the company and on the strength of which he won several awards both locally and internationally.

He is also President, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) just as he is a long standing advocate of Internet evolution, which ignited his desire to conceive the idea of forming the group to further educate and facilitate the Internet penetration and education in Nigeria.

He proposed the formation of the NIG in 1995, thus becoming a co-founder and in December 2005, barely 10 years later, he became the president. That is after serving as the vice president, NIG since 2003, at the same time serving as the vice president, Internet Service Providers Association of Nigeria (ISPAN) between 2002 and 2004.The PiNet chief while representing ISPAN at the continental level- the African Internet Service Providers Association (AfrISPA) also emerged the vice chairman of the group where he worked hard to ensure that benefit of Internet and services are encouraged on the continent.

Ajayi represented Nigeria at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) at the National Information and Communication Infrastructure (NICI) meetings, which brought the essence of ICT implementation agency to the forefront and eventually led to the establishment of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in the country in 2001.

Having obtained both his Bachelors and Masters Degrees, in Electrical Engineering at the University of Lagos, (UNILAG), he worked for NITEL for 11 years before establishing PiNET Informatics, which is one of the first Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Nigeria.

A member of the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), Mr. Ajayi also belonged to a number of other professional groups such as the Internet Society (ISOC) and a fellow of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS).

PiNet has expanded to focus beyond Internet solutions to include providing access to a large customer base and through Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) implementations under the firm’s BroadbandDirect scheme. He was elected to lead NIG early in December 2005, and since then has been an outspoken professional, especially on issues of ICT and Internet in particular, with passion to drive the Nigeria Internet Exchange Point (NIXP) further since it was founded a few years back.

Ekuwem:
Dr. Emmanuel E. Ekuwem is currently the president, Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), and was the immediate Past President, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG) and also the vice chairman/chief executive officer Teledom International Group, an indigenous conglomerate company with expertise in broadband ICT infrastructure development, deployment and software development for process automation.

Known for having tremendous capabilities and versatility in telecom engineering, information technology and telecom peripherals instrumentation, Ekuwem’s vast knowledge, expertise and experience is resource and guiding tool for both his company and all the association where he has continued to work in the leadership positions.

An alumnus of Obafemi Awolowo University (University of Ife) Ile-Ife, Ekuwem holds a Bachelors Degree in Engineering Physics and two Masters Degree in Physics and Electronic & Electrical Engineering respectively, as well as a PhD in Electronic and Electrical Engineering. He did his Post-PhD fellowship research work, in the Networking and Radio Propagation Laboratory of the UNESCO ICTP, Trieste, Italy.

Also, Dr. Ekuwem presently a member of the Infrastructure committee of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, chairman, Technical Committee of the Nigerian Universities Network (NUNet) and Nigerian Universities Management Information System (NUMIS) – NUNet/NUMIS, after serving in the Presidential committee on 419 on the Internet and cybercrime, Nigerian Cybercrime Working Group, and member of the infrastructure sub-committee of the National IT Strategic Action Plan. Ekuwem is equally an external board member, Faculty of Technology, OAU, Ile-Ife, UNESCO’s ICTP (Trieste, Italy) Regional Coordinator of the Nigerian Universities Network (NuNet).

A fellow of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)/TRIL Programme of the ICTP on Intelligent Real-Time Computer-based Data Communication, Ekuwem is a visiting associate to ICTP under the auspices of Aeronomy Laboratory and Programme on Training and System Development in Networking and Radio communication, in addition to consulting for UNESCO (Nigeria office) on the IT component of UNDAF.

Further, Ekuwem is a winner of the Third World Academy of Science (TWAS) award for Research on the effects of Meteorological phenomena on Radio Communication (VHF/UHF) in the lower Troposphere; Principal Investigator in the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)/R experiments on radio propagation phenomena in non-ionized media (in Africa).

President of Knowledge Media International, publisher of IT Edge Magazine and web-based ITEdge online (ITEdgenews.com), as well as currently consulting for Akwa Ibom State Government on Information Technology/Science and Technology Park among others backed with several awards.

Manny:
For Prof. Emmanuel Chukwunonso Aniebonam, Nigeria must not allow the illusion of developing country to lag behind at this era of ICT. Thus, he made it a point of duty to mobilize Nigerians in the diaspora via the Nigerian Information Technology Professionals in the Americas (NITPA), of which he presided over for years, with a view to bridging the digital divide between Nigeria and the rest of the world.

It was through NITPA that he intervened in 2004, following the crisis surrounding the controversial hosting of the nation’s country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD), dot ng, by deploying internet technology, to bring to a round table, the warring parties. He spearheaded the first Global IT Roundtable held in Lagos in 2003 and a second leg which was held in the last quarter of the year in the United States of America in collaboration with the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), hence, industry watchers were not surprised when he was honoured with the NCS’ ‘Brain Gain Ambassador’ award in 2003, in recognition of his contributions to IT in the country.

On January 13, 2005, he brokered a deal between University of Nigeria (UNN) and AfriHub for the establishment of ICT parks at its two campuses in Enugu and Nsukka.
The parks were established by AfriHub Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of AfriHub LLC, a US-based company jointly owned by SkyTerra Communications, Zinox Technologies Ltd and Rainbownet Ltd.

This heralded the commencement of the proposed 40 ICT parks to be established in Nigeria by AfriHub before the end of 2006, with each park having state-of-the-art cyber centre with more than 200 Personal Computers (PCs), high speed internet access, a multi-line call centre for high quality domestic and international telephony, and campus-wide wireless extension for future growth. Every park would also have computer and multimedia equipped classrooms for a US instructor-led technical training.

Currently, Manny is the Executive Vice President, AfriHub Limited Liability Company (LLC) based in Fairfax, Virginia, USA, after glowing years at the George Washington University’s (GWU) Faculty of Computer Information Systems’ Management Science Department, as an assistant professor since August 2001.

He had held the same post at Howard University School of Business, Computing Information Systems and Analysis, Washington DC, between August 1997 and July 2001.
Manny completed his Ph.D in 1997 at The George Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Prior to joining the academia, he had sixteen years working experience in Fortune 100 companies as Information Systems Developer, Database Administrator, IT Consultant and Project Manager, with expert knowledge of information systems development, deployment and support, to name a few.

Raymond:
And for Prof. Raymond Akwule it could be a good option after putting in over 25 years of teaching, research, and project planning and implementation experience in the fields of telecommunications and information technology as well as Mass Communication and Media studies at George Mason University in Fairfax Virginia, United States of America.

Author of severally acclaimed industry-based best-selling books, Akwule, was a Director of Center for Telecommunications Information and Broadcasting, which later become the Center for Media Research and Telecommunications at the department of Communication, George Mason University. He was one of the founders of the MA Telecommunications programmes at the same university.

Prof. Akwule has advised many countries in the area of media and communication and has spearheaded the design and implementation of several nation ICT networks as well as e-government, e-commerce and e-education programmes in Africa, and had advised UNDP, international telecommunications union, World Bank, UNECA, UNESCO, USAID, USTDA, Several African Government including South Africa and Nigeria, AT&T, Teledesic, Iridium, NITEL -Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd, NIPOST –Nigerian Postal Services Ltd and the NCC –Nigerian Communications Commission.

Prof. Akwule is currently the vice-chairman of Net post Nigeria Ltd, a public, private sector partnership designed to introduce internet protocol based electronic network into the Nigeria postal establishment, NIPOST.

Summary:
However, most of the stakeholders’ concern is to ensure that the best and nothing but the best is good enough to succeed Ndukwe, only in 24 days time, and it would come to pass that once upon a time, Dr. Ndukwe was the EVC at NCC.

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