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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Telco chiefs, Akunyili on collision path


JUST few weeks in office, the newly appointed Minister of Information and Communications, Prof. (Mrs.) Dora Akunyili, may be heading for a collision path with chief executive officers (CEOs) of multinational telecommunications operators in the land.

Feelers reaching ITRealms Online at the end of Akunyili’s first ever stakeholders’ forum in Abuja, last week Tuesday, showed that most chief executive officers operating telecommunications, especially of the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) were displeased on the outcome of the forum.

Moreso on the manner with which the chief executive officer of Zain Nigeria, Mr. Bayo Ligali, was literally told to have his seat for allegedly making a ‘political statement’ when he tried to recount that quality of service (QoS) has been on the improvement ladder and as a matter of fact, the last Christmas was better than that of before and the need to improve on telecommunications infrastructure.

Even as the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has sounded a note of warning, saying such embarrassment should be redressed.

ITRealms Online investigations showed that Prof. Akunyili had interrupted Ligali, and warned CEOs to devoid of political statements in their contributions at the forum.

For most of the operators who spoke to ITRealms Online, that was the height of an insult from what they described as ‘industry novice,’ moreso to a chief executive officer of a multinational telecom operator, who does not have any political inclination.

“Could you imagine the way the minister responded to Ligali of all people? Just be rest assured that as a multinational company, they may not be necessarily disposed to deal with her at that level,” one of the forum participants fumed after the meeting, which held at the National Press Centre, Radio House, Abuja.

For another chief executive who spoke to ITRealms Online on anonymity, “I would not be surprised that future meetings by this minister would be attended by mostly junior officers as she has no respect for multinational entities, let alone telecom operators of that magnitude until she leaves office, if she can address a chief executive officer in that rude manner.”

Stressing, “Can you reduce tariff without addressing infrastructure problems,” just as our source insisted that if it was easy to fix, why has government not fixed the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL).

In its official reaction to the development, operators under the aegis of ALTON said they were taken aback by the honourable minister’s interjection.

ALTON chairman, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, noted that Mr. Ligali is the CEO of Zain, “a very important member of our association.”

According to Adebayo, the issues raised by Ligali were the state of the industry and current challenge due to the poor state of the national energy infrastructure and security situation.

“…And one would expect that the Minister who is new in the terrain would respect and accept the position stressed by Mr. Ligali, the presiding officer of a leading network,” he said.

ALTON also described the development as unfortunate.

“It is unfortunate and we hope that the Minister will take a step to redress the embarrassment caused Mr. Ligali and his network as this can affect a relationship,” the group warned.

In fact, those who spoke to ITRealms Online called on Prof. Akunyili to tender an unreserved apology, knowing fully well she is serving the public and should treat people representing companies with some respect if she expects any in return.

Our source, further noted that Mrs. Akunyili must be humble if she intends to make any mark before leaving office, saying that with the stakeholders meeting, they were expecting her to come up with some policy agenda that she will pursue to curb the ills bedeviling the industry as contained in a press statement by Special Adviser to
Akunyili on Media, Mr. Charles Chikezie.

“Alas, it was not to be, rather, she was busy insisting on companies writing the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to copy her ministry. This leaves me wondering if she plans to form policies and implement same by herself alone,” one of the participants asked.

Media report had it that Akunyili, more or less made the forum to look like another telecom consumers parliament, presided over by her, which actually is within the purview of NCC as most of the utterances from her was on quality of service and tariff reduction.

Thus, industry analysts described the forum as a misguided one, because it was short of policy guidelines.

They further argued that telecom service providers cannot reduce tariff with immediate effect, when she refused to hear one of them like Mr. Ligali, who was ready to tell her the truth and factors surrounding tariff reduction strategies and its viability at this time in point.

Equally, they saw the embarrassment on Ligali as an affront on the operators’ psyche thereby creating an atmosphere of fear on management of telecom companies, which in the actual sense was a shooting on the wrong foot.

ITRealms Online recalls that Prof. Akunyili and the Minister of State, Alhaji Aliyu Bilbis, had summoned a stakeholders’ forum for telecoms providers to deliberate on some of the “ills bedeviling the industry.”

According to Mr. Chikezie, the meeting was expected to create an avenue for the minister to explore the challenges in the communications sector, so as to fashion out measures that will make it operate optimally as well as derive full benefit for Nigerians.

Officials of NCC led by its Executive Vice Chairman, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, chief executives of all telecom operating companies including Digital Mobile License (DML) and Private Network Links (PNL) operators, Internet Service Providers (ISP) among other stakeholders were present at the forum.

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1 comment:

lamikayty said...

Talk about a round peg in a square hole.
Misconduct aside, I would love to see the Honorable minister come up with intelligent policies & decisions and clear strategic ways of moving ahead. If she is dynamic, this should not be a problem for her. She should also surround herself with other eggheads especially in the field.

Konga