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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Communication policy review: Stakeholders may protest composition


A non-governmental organization (NGO) with focus on media development within the Nigerian Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector, the Joint Action Committee on ICT Awareness and Development (JACITAD) may kick-against the composition of the 26-member committee on the review of National Communications Policy.

Sources close to the presidency of JACITAD, disclosed weekend that the organization is not satisfied with the composition of the committee, but also the exclusion of its members, who have served in the industry over 20 years.

Also, ITRealms Online gathered that the group is warming up to petition the Ministry of Information and Communication headed by Prof. Dora Akunyili and Alhaji Ikra Bilbis as minister of state, over the issue.

“Over the years, JACITAD has been on the forefront of policy update as far as the National Communications Policy is concerned, stressing that now, the time of being actively involved, and the group was sidelined,” our source said.

According to our source, if there is any qualification for being a member of that committee, especially relating to media development and representation, JACITAD need not be left out among others like the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE).

“Because our members are key change agents who have contributed immensely in nurturing what we have today,” one of the top officials told ITRealms Online, pointing out that there are pressure groups that should have representation in that committee and it should not be an all-comers affairs.

Take the omission of NSE for instance, our source said that it is impossible to have a seamless telecommunications environment without this group, whose membership are the engine behind the infrastructure used in the sector.

Recalling that in the recent past, JACITAD has made representations to the National Assembly on several issues during public hearings and cannot understand the rationale behind the selection and omission of its members in the committee.

“We have got to protest this to the appropriate authorities, because it is not healthy for this industry and the nation as a whole,” another top official declared, arguing that as long as they may not be comfortable with the set up, it is necessary that representation should include active media practitioners in the sector.

JACITAD, a group set up in 2003 with the encouragement from the pioneer Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), late Prof. Gabriel Ajayi, is reputed for its inputs into the national ICT development projects in line with its objectives and represents ICT media practitioners and media owners in the country.

The group recently hosted the outgoing chief executive of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe for his contributions in moving the nation’s ICT growth forward.

Equally, the National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) is warming up with its own petition, according to the national president, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo.

He confirmed this to ITRealms Online, alleging that the committee has no subscriber representation and they would react by Thursday this week, after today’s executive session.

However, the Federal Government inauguration of the National Communication Policy Review Committee with a view to reviewing the current policy, was performed by the Minister of State for Information and Communication, Alhaji Aliyu Ikra Bilbis.

Members of the 26-man review committee chaired by the chief executive of GlobalTouch, Mr. Isaiah Mohammed include Mr. Eddie Amana as Vice Chairman, Chairman of Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, ThisDay editor, The Saturday Newspaper, Ijeoma Nwogwugwu, whereas the Legal Adviser to the Ministry would serve as the Secretary.

Equally, the committee include Roy Murray-Bruce of Silverbird Group, Prof. Raymond Akwule of Digital Bridge Institute (DBI), Mr. Stephen Bello of NCC, Mr. Funso Fayomi of the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), and a United States-based Nigerian expert, Goni Usman, to name a few.

Speaking at the occasion, Alhaji Bilbis noted that the review would suggest some of the areas of focus and emphasis as articulated in September 2000 policy, which may have been eroded with time, even as the committee has three months to submit its report.

Also, he said, there are more compelling issues arising from the global fast telecom growth, the evolution of new media and the challenge of information security that would need to be accommodated in the new policy regime.

Prior to this development, the 2000 National Communication Policy provides for a three-year short term and five year medium term policy which was supposed to have been reviewed since 2003 or 2005 in long term, with focus on the provision of telecommunication services intended to improve the well-being of the populace, attract investment for the sector.


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