Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Economic meltdown:‘Nigerian telcos need no bail-out’

AS the global economic meltdown is furiously spreading its effect, the upper chambers of the National Assembly, the Senate has said that operators in the Nigerian telecommunications sector need no bail-out of any kind for now, report REMMY NWEKE & CHARLES OKOH.

This came as the telecommunications regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), re-echoed this position, saying that the global meltdown would not affect the telecom sector in the country.

Chairman, Senate committee on Communications, Senator Sylvester Anyanwu gave this hint at a media parley in Lagos, after a facility tour of Etisalat Nigeria, last weekend.

Anyanwu accompanied by his vice chairman, Sen. Joseph Akagerger, and other members of the committee, namely Senator Bola Mohammed, Senator Patricia Akwasaki, told ITRealms Online that he does not think operators need any kind of bail out, at least, not to the best of his knowledge at present.

According to him, operators in the country are still new and are working assiduously to improve services and penetration nationwide, attributing the meltdown at Wall Street to regulatory lapses, which is why his committee is planning a forum later this month of March, with focus on the Communications Act before it goes for second reading .

Telecommunications operators, Senator Anyanwu said, are currently pre-occupied in living up to their billing based on the proposed outlook they submitted in 2007 to the committee towards the last quarter.

He expressed optimism that most of them are very keen in improving services and more so to deliver on data and reach out to the local dwellers countrywide.

The national assembly and Senate precisely, he said, is not planning any sort of bail out for the sector, because it is promising to stimulate growth around the entire eco-system.

He pointed out that the federal government is very much interested in improving the public power supply in the country, because power and security are two major issues in telecommunications service delivery.

As at 2007, Senator Anyanwu said the public power supply was less than 30 per cent on average, but today has improved offering, which paved the way for an operator like Etisalat to be running on 40 per cent public power.

This, the Senator, noted helps in the total cost of operation and even ownership for the end users.

On the issue of double taxation, he noted that it is not every state in the country that has instituted their own taxes on operators, while some do and for those who do, his committee and the general upper chamber have been engaging them to ensure that peace reigns for development expected to take root.

Meanwhile, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of NCC, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, has said that the effect of the global economic meltdown will not adversely affect the industry.

Speaking at a one-day Technology Times Outlook 2009 in Lagos, last week, Ndukwe said this was the general consensus of stakeholders at the recent NCC organised stakeholders forum held to consider the possible effect of the meltdown on the communications industry, in Abuja, penultimate Thursday.

“The consensus at the forum is that the industry is doing well and is not likely to be affected by the global crisis and in fact, it has the potential to act as a catalyst to other sectors for future economic recovery,” Ndukwe said.

Pointing out that banks still want to do business with telcos because they remain the cash-cow of the economy, stressing that although people may not want to spend more money in other areas, ‘they still will make calls for business and social reasons.”

He anticipated that the sector would advance on its records by improving on broadband penetration, thereby accelerating the social and economic development in the modern world.

Dwelling on ‘Sustaining the next growth phase of Nigerian Telecommunications industry through enabling regulatory environment,’ Ndukwe said, the open market approach of the nation has promoted rapid deployment of ICT services nationwide.

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