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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2010: SIM card registration intrigues top issues (3)

The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector may have ended the year 2010, but top on the list of stakeholders was the SIM card registration writes REMMY NWEKE.
In year 2010, the first quarter ended with the exit of Dr. Ernest Chukwuka-Anene Ndukwe as the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) and chief executive of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) after serving his two terms in office which ended in April.

This was followed with the shopping by the Federal Government for his replace, which was immediately castigated by the some experts’ and stakeholders who thought that before Ndukwe’s exit a replacement should have been named to avoid void and attendant controversies that ensued thereafter.

Well, based on the directive that Ndukwe hands over to the next most senior officer in the Commission, the mantle fall on Mr. Stephen Bello and before one could spell Jack, the politicking gained root both at the presidency, ministry of information and communication as well as the National Assembly on whether to confirm him or not.

Despite the fact that his tenure as an Executive Commissioner in NCC was reportedly to end April 3, 2010, Ndukwe’s exit turned NCC to ‘mecca’ for some political advisors who went to work to ensure that their man or candidate takes over at the Commissioner. This also threw up some names included the then incumbent, Mr. Stephen Adedayo Bello and Dr. Bashir Gwandu who are both Executive Commissioners at NCC on Licensing and Consumer Affairs as well as Engineering and Standards, respectively.

While others were the President of Digital Bridge Institute (DBI), Prof. Raymond Akwule, immediate past-President, Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Mr. Lanre Ajayi, chairman of Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo and former
President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Dr. Emmanual Ekuwem, even as the former top officer of moribund MTS First Wireless, Dr. Eugene Juwah and Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta of DBI were reportedly top on the recommendations of NCC board.

Eventually Dr. Juwah’s name was sent to the National Assembly for screening alongside Mr. Okechukwu Itanyi, which controversial back-deals by the Senator Sylvester Anyanwu-led Communications Committee were divided on the modalities for the screening and confirmation, thereby forcing the leadership of Senate to sack the committee and assumed the screening by itself and confirmation at the floor of the house.

However, the names sent to National Assembly were simply confirmed by them, although industry observers noted that lingered politicization of President Umar Musa Yar’Adua’s ill-health did not help matters based on scheming of northern ruling elites to have a northerner in the EVC position.

Another factor that kicked against the zoning of the chief executive officer of NCC to the north was the fact that then Acting President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is from the south and may decide to veto the situation, though some stakeholders think he could use that opportunity to appease some of the southern elites, who are not relenting either, especially those from South-south otherwise call ‘Niger Delta’ axis of which Dr. Juwah is an indigene in this respect.

Before the emergence of Juwah, Mr. Bello was just a month after asked to hand over to the next senior person, which happens to be Dr. Gwandu and proceed on retirement leave. This became another contention with several editorials to and against the directive.

Soon after the issue of controversy suggested that Bello was contesting his undue retirement followed by the reports that the accounts of NCC has been frozen by Gwandu to forestall any counter-directive by loyalists to Bello short-lived leadership because of the way he was reported jettisoned from office. This much was refuted by Gwandu.

The NCC said its attention has been drawn to reports in the media insinuating that the bank accounts of the Commission have been frozen, following a leadership crisis, or that there is a leadership crisis in the Commission. But according to the Head, Media & Public Relations at NCC, Mr. Reuben Muoka, it’s all lies as there was no such thing or any leadership crisis in NCC.

He pointed out that while it is not the intention of the Commission to join issues with the press, “we have the responsibility to inform the Nigerian public, and all industry stakeholders that no account of the Commission has been frozen for whatever reason.”

Describing the report as “embarrassing and a figment of the imagination of the author,” Muoka said that the public should discountenance it.

“We wish to also inform the public that there is no crisis of succession in the Commission,” he said, stressing that Dr. Gwandu has since June 21, assumed office as the acting EVC of NCC.

“For the avoidance of any doubt, Dr. Bashir Gwandu, the Executive Commissioner in charge of Engineering and Standards, have since June 21, 2010, been appointed the Acting Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission,” he declared.

He noted that this was in line with the directive of the government to the former Acting Executive Vice Chairman, Mr. Stephen Bello, whose five-year tenure as an Executive Commissioner with the Commission expired on July 5, 2010, to proceed on his formal retirement.

He maintained that since the appointment of Dr. Gwandu, with the full knowledge of the entire staff, “he has continued to perform his duties as the Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Commission at our Headquarters in Abuja without let or hindrance.”

Muoka also said that Gwandu was at the meeting convened by the House of Representatives Committee on Communications on Wednesday, June 23, 2010, and there was no time during the meeting that another person appeared in the same capacity as Acting EVC.

“As a matter of fact, the proceedings of the meeting were recorded for transmission by the
various television stations and the public can watch the full proceedings of the meeting,” he said.

Since the creation of NCC under Decree 75 by the Federal Military Government of Nigeria on November 24, 1992, the post of chief executive officer cum executive vice chairman, had always been retained by the south and precisely the south-east in the last three successions; Eze Cletus Iromantu, who is now a traditional ruler and Dr. Emmanuel Nnama, who is presently into private practice and telecom advocacy as well as Dr. Ndukwe, who has since leaving office returned to private practice as the group chairman, OpenMedia Group.

Equally of relevant was the issue of having stale website by the Ministry of Information and Communication, which did not leave the nation in any better light as far as current information was concerned; this forced the ministry to come up with two websites in the following weeks- One for MOIC and another for rebranding project.

The Minister of Information and Communication, Prof. Dora Akunyili and her Minister of State, Alhaji Ibrahim Nakande soon pathways following the reshuffling of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) which saw Akunyili retaining her office while a new Minister of State came in person of Alhaji Aliyu Bilbis and later Mr. Labara Maku. Before the end of the year, Akunyili resigned her position to join the All Programmes Grand Alliance (APGA) to seek for the Senate in her home town, Anambra State, thus, elevating Mr. Maku to become full-fledged Minister till the time of this report without any substantive Minister of State.

Noteworthy was that Glo 1 and MainOne submarine cables landed in the country within the period under review, with the hope that broadband would change the landscape of ICT in the country, mostly prevailing cheaper Internet access.

However, the most disturbing aspect of the 2010 for ICT industry was the state of insecurity in the South-Eastern part of the country which the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), even as the group identified lack of security as the greatest threat to telecom infrastructure in the country, warning that this may impact negatively on the Quality of Services (QoS).

Chairman, ALTON and chief executive officer of Communication Network Support Services Limited (CNSSL), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, while delivering a paper on “Managed Services & Infrastructure Sharing: Implications for a safe Environment” in Lagos, decried the recent killing of seven personnel on duty at a Base Transceiver Station (BTS) located at Gabby Oil, Aba Road, Abia State.

As said by him, despite the advantages of both co-shared and non-co shared infrastructure, lack of security remained the most menace to equipment, infrastructure and personnel in telecoms development. He warned that this, especially with the recent killing of personnel at BTS, while carrying out routine maintenance on a Radio Base Station site located at Gabby Oil, Aba Road, would impact immensely and negatively to the kind of quality of service to the state and South Eastern region of the country as a whole.

Adebayo noted that telecommunications operation is a round the clock and workers and contractors of ALTON member companies work 24 hours and seven days of the week.

Describing as unfortunate the attacks member staff, he said, it would impact on ability of members to provide needed 24/7 maintenance support on network infrastructure in some parts of the country.

“ALTON foresees that this development will impact severely on quality of services across the networks,” he said, lamenting that those personnel were gunned down in the BTS as well as one was shot down from the mast while attending to maintenance, describing it as sad. The motive behind the killing has remained unknown as the assault on the workers and security personnel were unprovoked.

“This incident has brought to the fore the state of insecurity in some parts of country, and in
particular some state of the South Eastern part of Nigeria,” he decried.

He noted that on managed services-outsourcing, network sharing and hosting, the Nigerian telecoms sector has fared very well over recent years and a number of operators who commenced services much later and now competing well with the early starters have been able to do so in the market place due to the ‘time to market advantage’ offered by collocation. Nigeria, he said, is one of the biggest and fastest growing telecom markets in Africa, and has been attracting huge foreign direct investment and yet standing at relatively low market penetration.

Above all, the issue surrounding the SIM card registration, its budget approval in the National Assembly and clamour for the registration, no doubt, has been on top of the news after the emergence of new leadership at NCC.

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1 comment:

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