The Association of Telecommunications Companies in Nigeria (ATCON) on Thursday projected that about N15 trillion would be required to finance the current infrastructure gap in the nation’s telecom/ICT industry in the next few years.
The association’s President, Mr. Ikechukwu Nnamani, made the projection when he led a delegation of the association’s newly elected National Executive Council (NEC) on a familiarization visit to the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) in his office in Abuja as part of the EXCO’s itinerary to familiarize the association’s leaders with the minister’s transformational initiatives in the sector.
According to Nnamani, since his appointment, the minister has exhibited a lot of commitment and determination in tackling the problems confronting the ICT industry, adding that the visit will also avail the association’s leadership to discuss with him on how to move the industry forward.
He urged the minister to do more in the area of digital infrastructure gap, by adopting appropriate policy measures that will attract more capital investments to the sector.
The ATCON President said: “Your timely intervention has led to the growth and development that the ICT sector has witnessed since you were sworn in as minister. This visit was put together to demonstrate the respect that we have for you and your office as records are there to show that the development of the sector is highly paramount in your strategic plans. Challenges that have plagued the industry for a very long time are now being addressed by you and your team. Notable among this is the progress made in the National Identity Number (NIN), Right of Way (RoW) and the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP), and digitization of the economy.
“More recent is the groundbreaking of the National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre in Abuja. The new NEC and the entire ATCON members are poised to work with you and your ministry to make your tenure a highly remarkable one in the history of the Nigerian telecom and ICT sector.
“The primary and strategic objective of our targeted programs is to compliment your concerted efforts in respect of making broadband pervasive and ubiquitous as well as to encourage state governments and private sector to aid the growth and development through their deliberate and strategic investment in technology and broadband in their respective states.
“We remain committed to contributing our quota to the growth and development of the country and looking forward towards working closely with you”, Nnamani assured.
He listed some of the ATCON’s goals and areas requests for 2021/2022 support in the industry as including, full implementation of the 2020-2025 NNBP; development of the strategic plan to bridge the over N15 trillion infrastructure funding gap for the telecom/ICT industry; full implementation of the RoW Policy and to address multiple taxations and other regulatory challenges.
In his remarks, the Minister explained that his ministry decided to reactivate the NIMC Act 2007 on NIN after many years of neglect because it remained critical to national planning, budget planning, security and social development, amongst other development needs.
Pantami maintained that the NIN remained mandatory and is the primary means of the identity of Nigerians and all legal residents, stressing that and there’s no better means of identifying the citizens and foreigners that the NIN.
He said: ‘‘I’m excited at your presentation why the Association was established and your willingness to join hand with the federal government of Nigeria through the office of the Minister in charge of Communications, most importantly in the area of NIN which is a mandatory number based on NIMC Act of 2007 that has actively been neglected for years it is also the foundational ID for building a digital economy.
‘‘It is key to our national planning, budget planning, national planning, security and social development, and many more. But it was neglected to be a mandatory one. So, we’ve come up with so many policies trying to ensure our citizens obtain the number, it is important beyond sim registration, it is important for whatever you do.
‘‘Because it is the primary identity of our citizens, there’s no identity that will define you are a citizen more than that number, it is mandatory. And it is mandatory for the transaction, as an opening bank account, like paying tax, voter registration, and many more.
‘‘If you look at section 27 it is clearly stated even to partake and enjoy government services without that number it is an offence, you must obtain before you engage the government in any business. Section 29 of the act says that if you fail to do that and you do transactions you have committed a crime that will lead to imprisonment.
‘‘We will always ensure that citizens obtain it, the law only gives you 60 days to obtain from the time it was approved.
‘‘On achievement on RoW, as I earlier said, when there is any lack of compliance with our agreement through Nigerian Governor’s Forum under the chairmanship of the governor of Ekiti state when there is such let me know I will engage the Nigerian governor’s forum and National Economic Council, don’t compromise. If you compromise in one state there is a high probability you will compromise in another state, but if you resist it is better for us.
“I don’t believe in one-man business, we are all stakeholders and we must work together for the success of the industry. I can’t do it alone and I can never deceive myself that I can do it alone. It is because of this I always urge stakeholders to let us work together to undo the best we can to take the sector to greater heights. most probably it is the most important sector in the country, it could be the most important.
“Our contribution to the GDP is always unprecedented, we are making a huge difference. Just ICT alone not to talk of the digital economy, if you add ICT sector plus digital services then definitely there is no doubt that no sector will contribute half of what we’ve been contributing to the GDP. But today and some of them are neglected, not computed, some of them are added to financial services but they are supposed to be under digital economy so, that it will be digital economy plus ICT sector. We will try to ensure that it is corrected”, the minister promised.