Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Stakeholders decry tribalism in NCC

Features of the week

Another plot seeking untimely removal of the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is not receiving supports from stakeholders reports REMMY NWEKE.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) stakeholders in the country have decried plots to remove the current Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, two years before the expiration of his tenure in 2010.

The plot according to media reports were being fanned by some northern interests who wanted one of the present executive commissioners, Engineering and Standards in NCC, Dr. Bashir Gwandu for the replacement on the bases that Ndukwe clocked 60 last weekend.

ITRealms Online recalls that Ndukwe who is serving his second term in office equally faced a similar campaign in the third quarter of last year, soon after the President Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration took over office.

Some of the stakeholders who expressed displeasure on the plot included the umbrella body of the telecom operators in the country, the Association of Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ATCON), National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS), telecom lawyers and industry experts.

Reacting to the subject matter there was a consensus that it was incorrect to canvass for Ndukwe’s removal on the count of age (60), which is strictly applicable to civil servants not political appointees, just as they also agreed that though the post is a political appointment, it should not be tribalised for any selfish aggrandizement because it is a professional appointment and not mere political.

ATCON chairman, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo in his reaction said his group was deeply touched by the news report on the scheming to get rid of current EVC who is widely believed beyond the shores of the country to have done well.

He warned that such attempt would portend bad omen for the industry and development of the nation as far as telecommunications is concerned.

“ … Such a political step will have negative impact on the enabling environment provided by government for operators and other investors in telecommunications over the years,” he said, stressing that the office of EVC is not about any individual, but the integrity and honour that Dr. Ndukwe has earned over the years which accounts in part of the overall success of the industry.

This, he noted, cannot be ignored and urged that this should be taken into consideration on issues concerning Ndukwe’s tenure.

According to him, part of the international high-rating the industry has had over the years is due to the quality of leadership provided by him as the EVC and this also cannot be overlooked.

“I believe we should respect the term contract, which also recognizes his age before the appointment and allow him with clear mind to complete his tenure in the interest of all stakeholders,” ATCON cautioned.

A Lagos-based attorney-at-Law, Mr. John St. Claret Ezeani told ITRealms Online that the whole story of a ‘plot’ to remove Dr. Ndukwe is a ‘mere speculation,’ as far as he knows, expressing doubt on its success, just as he declared that if, therefore, “such a plot is indeed being hatched, I can assure you that it will surely fail.”

While wishing Ndukwe a happy 60th birthday, Mr. Ezeani noted that his tenure has been scheduled to run till 2010, expressing the belief the current EVC would definitely complete his tenure.

“Why am I so sure? Because the administration of President Umaru Yar’Adua understands and embraces the tenets of rule of law. Ndukwe was duly appointed under a valid subsisting statute and the terms of his appointment are clearly spelt out in that statute. The circumstances under which he may be removed prior to the expiration of his tenure are also spelt out in that statute.

“The President Yar’Adua that I know will not be party to any shenanigan that will amount to willful interference with the operations of the law. The position of EVC of NCC is a tenured post governed by Federal statute. No where does the enabling statute, the Nigerian Communications Act of 2003, stipulate a maximum age for qualification for appointment as EVC of NCC, nor does that statute stipulate the attainment of the age of 60 years as one of the conditions for the termination of the appointment of an EVC whose tenure is still alive. I do not envisage any derogation from this position as it applies to Dr. Ernest Ndukwe,” Mr. Ezeani said.

Another telecom lawyer, Mr. Damian Udeh wondered why some Nigerians portray themselves as “lawless” stressing that there is an existing law which gave the EVC a definite term of office, describing it as a distraction by enemies of progress.

“He must run that course to completion. Nobody should be talking about replacing him at the moment. They have started again. Instead of allowing him to concentrate and do the work he is doing, which he is doing well, any way, they want to distract him. This government which has continually maintained that it respects the rule of law must make sure they don’t remove him until he completes his term,” Udeh said, pointing out that the EVC has a lot to offer to this industry and Nigerians no doubt are feeling the impact already.

A telecommunications expert and chief executive, Telecom Answer Associate, Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu, said there remains so much to do that rather than allowing the few idle minds to stop the speedy train.

“We should not let idle minds stop the speed of this train, Ernest is not a civil servant, is he? … By the way, who says the position of EVC is political? It is not. It is professional,” he declared.

Equally for the president, NATCOMS, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, Dr. Ndukwe deserves to stay in office as the EVC and CEO, NCC for the next 12 years.

NATCOMS in a written reaction to the development entitled “Please leave Ndukwe with NCC till 2010” said the group would prefer to have him remain in office till 2020 if not for the Telecommunications Act 2003, which discourages more than two terms of five years per term.

Ogunbanjo cited an instance with the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaete, who reportedly over-stayed in office by about 2-3 years, recalling that Alhaji Rafiu Babatunde Tinubu, former Head of Service of Lagos State Government, also over-stayed in office with about three years to the knowledge and approval of both Federal and State Governments respectively.

Insisting that in both situations, they have either attained the retirement age of 60 years and got their retirement age moved forward, or have served for more than 37 years, which goes against the established procedure of either the attainment of 35 years in service or 60 years of age, which ever comes first.

Ndukwe, on the other hand assumed office when the entire telephone lines in Nigeria was below 500,000 lines and within eight years, revolutionised the telecoms industry to a record 50,000,000 million GSM and Fixed Wireless (FW) Lines. Just as he brought consumerism into the telecommunications industry to ensure that the consumers are not only heard but attended to through the monthly NCC Telecomms Consumer Parliament (TCP) and the Telecomms Consumer Outreach Programme (COP) among others.

These, NATCOMS noted that Ndukwe’s programmes were not only trail-blazing in the 48 years of Nigeria’s independent, “they are internationally acclaimed, recognised and awarded by International and world bodies, which has brought honour to Nigeria as a nation.”

NATCOMS on behalf of its members and generality of Nigerians pleaded with the Federal Government to allow Dr. Ndukwe, to run his full second term tenure of office till 2010.

Noteworthy is that as much as some other parts of the country would like to partake in the leadership of NCC, they should always have in mind the objectives of NCC, which it has set out to achieve mostly in delivering ICT.

ITRealms Online also gathered that there are some northern interest scheming for the position via the Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd (NITEL) among others, they should give peace a chance by allowing Ndukwe to finish his second term, while realising that the post of EVC is ‘strictly professional’.

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