Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Battle for ATCON president hots up

Features of the week:

Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), is set to elect new leadership. REMMY NWEKE who has been closely watching events as the campaigns hot up, reports.

Since the passing away of the immediate past president of ATCON, Chief Charles Alaba Joseph, a lot of water seems to have passed under the bridge. This situation could only be remedied with the finding of a good replacement, although the tenure of the late Joseph ended last quarter, he had promised not to elongate his term before his untimely death.

Despite the fact that ATCON constitution allow for a third term in office, it is pertinent that its members search very well among their folks or to use the local parlance, ‘shine your eyes’ so as to ensure that the election did not simply go through but is successful after suffering series of postponements. The latest of which is that of March 31 from when it was shifted to Friday, April 21.

There are several contenders, which have since been scaled down to two, viz the chief executive, premier Internet Service Provider (ISP) firm, Linkserve, Mr. Chima Onyekwere, and Executive Vice Chairman, Teledom Group International, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem.

ATCON is an umbrella body of registered telecommunications companies and service providers within the sector in the country. Founded on December 10, 1993, ATCON serves as a platform for cross-industry exchange of ideas and experiences through annual Nigerian International Communication exhibition and conferences (NICOMM).

Following the practical deregulation of telecommunications sector in year 2000, the body has been very active in terms of taking part in charting a new future for stakeholders, even as acting as a voice for the sector as well as helping to shape the policy framework of the regulations aspect of the industry.

In addition, ATCON tends to educate its members towards rapid growth of the sector.

Contenders’ Xray
As the coast gets clearer it is worth to pre-examine the two contestants based on stakeholders’ expectations and potentials of individual achievements as well as their contributions in recent times.

Chima Onyekwere is a renowned investor and consultant with some major firms on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) including the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST).

He had served on the board of the Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), and a top notcher of the Internet Service Providers Association of Nigeria (ISPAN).

Also known for not being partisan or keen on occupying political positions over a decade of founding his Linkserve, Mr. Onyekwere lately turned a new leaf given the element of support he gave to the Corporate Affairs and Marketing Manager at Linkserve, Mrs. Ufuma ‘Daro, who emerged as the Vice President, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), last December.

It was however, believed in some quarters amidst stakeholders that he has something up the sleeves and barely five months later, Mr. Onyekwere is being touted as a possible occupant of the position of national president of ATCON.

However, he seems to have a handful, as his major contender in the race is the immediate past president of NIG, Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, who had served previously as the vice president of NIG under Mr. Jim Ovia’s regime, before emerging President in 2003.

Dr. Ekuwem overtime has been an active player in the ICT industry and precisely ATCON, having served as Group Coordinator, rappartour and factually consistent with the CEO’s forum annually organized by ATCON.

He was bestowed with the National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) award in 2001 by President Olusegun Obasanjo, for his contributions to nation building and had also received the IT and Telecom Personality of the year award 2004, whereas in 2005, got the Nigerian Institute of Physics (NIP) award in commemoration of Albert Einstein’s Centenary award for excellence, even as he was presented with ATCON’s National Telecom Merit Award in the year 2004.

He had given talks on various policy issues that facilitated the moving of the industry forward and has been equally a consultant to NCC and FMST, National IT Development Agency (NiTDA), as well as the Akwa-Ibom State government on IT.

ITRealms Online gathered that he was instrumental to recent Memorandum of Understanding between Akwa-Ibom and two Chinese firms for manufacturing of telephone handsets locally, due to commence before the end of this year.

Dr. Ekuwem is known as being instrumental also to the creation of Akwa-Ibom State Economic Empowerment Strategies, which has since been replicated in the localities of the state. In addition, it was during his tenure that the issue of Top Level Domain (TLD) of Nigeria was subtly brought to rest on the shoulders of Nigerians, given birth to the Nigeria Internet Registration Authority (NiRA).

Ekuwem is known for being pragmatically visible at both local and major international ICT forums including the Computer, Telecommunications and Office Equipment (CTO) expo annually held in Lagos, European CeBit, and United States’ Supercomms, over the years to name a few.

However, stakeholders are more disposed with Dr. Ekuwem as investigations by correspondent revealed that once his interest was made known, many potential candidates for the top office of ATCON President, withdrew their candidacy or even changed their thought to vie for other positions.

Available positions
ATCON constitution, according to its secretariat on the call for interest and nominations announced earlier, stipulated that there are about 14 elective positions in the association, which last for a tenure of two years, but could be re-elected for three times consecutively.

The offices are that of the National President, first and second Vice Presidents, National Secretary, Publicity Secretary, Financial Secretary and Treasurer. Also listed for contest are the positions of sub-group coordinators for licensed telephone operators; auxiliary services providers, enhanced services providers; customer equipment dealers, manufacturing/manufacturers representatives in addition to consulting group.

ATCON’s structure allows for sub-group coordinators to form part of the National Executive Council (NEC) so as to avail them ample and efficient representation of the avalanche of telecommunications services in the sector.

Consultations and expectations
As usual, consultations leading into midnight meetings are going on within ATCON as caucuses strategize and restrategize for the next election on 48 hours basis.

Although ATCON secretariat promised to publicize the nominations list when done ahead of the election, stakeholders are saying that much has not been done in this regard.

This election is coming barely a month after the Unified Licensing Regime (ULR) took off on March 1, this year and stakeholders expectations are that whoever that would emerge as the National President would be one with open-door policy, focused on the future of the industry under ULR, as much needs an ardent advocate of convergence and not a conservative.

Key issue however is that as the two are now known, one of them would definitely emerge the national president and another first vice president.

As all is set for the NEC meeting cum election stakeholders are eager to cast their votes and get done with the election so the industry can move forward.

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