CYBER ERA OPINION

Danbatta’s Reappointment: A Good Omen For The ICT Industry

Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta
Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta
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This statement: “La victoria trova cento padri, e nessuno vuole riconoscere l’insuccesso.”  Or  transliterated into English language: “Victory Has A Hundred Fathers And Defeat Is An Orphan,” originally coined  in 1942 by the Italian diplomat, and son-in-law of Mussolini, Count Caleazzo Ciano (1903-44), has a lot to say about the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of  telecommunications regulatory body, the Nigerian Communications Commission, who  was reappointed for a second term in office by Nigerian Leader, Muhammadu Buhari, following  a recommendation to that effect by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Ali Isa Ibrahim Pantami.

As would be expected, congratulatory messages have been coming to Prof. Danbatta, akin to the ones he received when he was confirmed by the 8th Senate on November 25, 2015.  Dr. Pantami  said in a statement signed by his spokesperson Uwa Suleiman on June 5, he recommended Prof Danbatta for reappointment  as NCCs boss in an effort to consolidate the gains made in the telecommunications sector, in line with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, while lacing it with a directive to significantly improve on the overall performance of the Commission as well as ensure that adequate mechanisms  were put in place to facilitate the implementation of all policies of the Federal Government through the Ministry. Furthermore, Minister Pantami enjoined him to ensure that the interest of telecommunication consumers, Nigerians and investors were adequately protected, stated Suleiman.

Buhari President Buhari at the ECC toll free number 112; NBP 2020-2025 unveiling

Other industry stakeholders have been sending their congratulations and messages of goodwill the way of Danbatta.  The National Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), in a press statement, conveying the congratulatory message to the NCC boss, signed by its President Olusola Teniola, says it sees Prof Danbatta’s reappointment…as a reward for his dedication and determination towards changing the narrative of the Nigerian telecom industry landscape through the implementation of programmes and projects that were executed under its supervising ministry and had been adjudged to be enhancing and improving the lives of Nigerians.

ATCON stated it was particularly happy that Dr. Pantami had expressed his confidence in Danbatta’s continuity as the substantive EVC/CEO of NCC by advising the President for him to continue serving the industry as the chief regulator of the Nigerian telecommunications industry.  “We know that his recommendation is predicated on him being a technocrat, a professional and a promoter of human relations and human capacity who has over the years initiated and implemented successful policies that have positive impact on businesses and Nigerians and we are very confident that he is equal to the task ahead.  We pledge our commitment to work with him and the Nigerian Communications Commission …and by extension, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy to sustain and accelerate the growth and development of the Nigerian Telecoms and Information Communication Technology (ICT) industry,” the Association stated.

In a congratulatory letter to Prof. Dambatta, Telecommunications, Media and Technology(TMT) journalists  under the aegis of the Nigeria Information Technology Reporters Association (NITRA), noted that the reappointment was indicative of the fact that he had performed creditably well in his first tenure and, therefore, had become a call to continue in order to see his plans and programmes to fruition.

We cannot agree less with stakeholders of the ICT industry who believe that Danbatta did well in his first tenure by diligently pursuing the 8-Point Agenda he established  for the Industry on assumption and, so deserves a second term.  According to the Chairman of NITRA, Chike Onwuegbuchi, the first tenure had given yield to so many notable achievements that had brought succour to consumers, sanity and growth to the industry, revenue to the government and operational efficiency and ease to operators.

Under Danbatta’s watch, the Commission dedicated 2017 as the Year Of The Telecoms Consumer and in this same year, the contribution of the telecoms sector to the GDP stood at over US$68billion. Total connected lines as at April 2020 stood at 282,283,475 lines with GSM lines being 281,066,066.  Total active GSM lines in the network stood at 190, 475,494 while Teledensity was 99.96  per cent.  Broadband penetration over the same period stood at 40.00 per cent.  The total percentage contribution of the telecoms industry to GDP as at Q1 2020 stood at 10.88 per cent.  The sector has proved resilient and continues to contribute incrementally to the GDP of the nation which currently stands at 10.88 per cent, notwithstanding the impact of recession on investment flows and the impact of the coronavirus(COVID-19) pandemic. 

Commenting on the milestone achievements of the EVC/CEO of NCC, Onwuegbuchi further stated: “In the light of your achievements with regards to reduction of RoW charges, lowering of the cost of calls/data, universal telecom access which as you said is premised on three ‘A’s, Availability of service, Accessibility of Service, and Affordability of service, among other initiatives, the reappointment is most deserving…

From left to right: Chairman, Board of Commissioners, NCC, Prof. Adeolu Akande; Executive Vice Chairman/CEO, NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta and the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, during the TVWS forum.

 “Your reappointment has come at a time when the industry needs consolidation and tidying up of your noble initiatives. It also comes at a time when the nation, and Africa as a continent, need to see the success of the National Broadband Plan (NBP), the total digitization of the economy and the acceleration of digital infrastructure via the the InfraCo model, among other developmental efforts to grow the Nigerian economy through ICT.”

Commendation, such as the one coming the way of the regulator-in-chief at the NCC, at this time, imparts positive energy on the receiver, and Danbatta, sure needs this, ad lib, as he begins the second and last lap of his tenure as EVC/CEO at the Commission, that would come to an end in 2025. Juxtapose the projections of the NBP on this timeline and you would appreciate better the right thinking within government circles.

Overtime, Danbatta has demonstrated competence, capacity, capability, toughness, flexibility, diligence, fortitude and, wait a minute, ATTITUDE; the right attitude, for that matter.  As a telecommunications expert per excellence, from the perspectives of both the gown and the town, Danbatta should know and actually knows that the ICT industry is not bereft of challenges as it is endowed with manifold opportunities.

Prof. Danbatta and Governor Fayemi,

No time is better to estimate the challenging nature of the industry than during the COVID-19  pandemic that has modified the faces of so many businesses and livelihoods, that in no small way, tasks and taxes the reflexes of the telecommunications sector umpire. 5G is gaining traction globally while sadly conspiracy theories linking the technology to COVID-19 are on the ascendancy in the country.  But Danbatta was prepared to confront these challenges headlong. Danbatta and the Commission have been commended for mulling a policy on 5G technology and has reached out to critical  industry stakeholders to make their input In keeping with its powers under section 57 of the NCA, 2003 and the need for wide public consultation.

The process of developing this policy would involve a Public Inquiry which would involve all relevant Stakeholders in the review and consultation process, insisting there would not be any 5G deployment until the policy was concluded and approved. Early into his assumption of duty,  he acknowledged this reality and, in his characteristic spartan spirit, rationalized it by saying the challenges were there but were not insurmountable.  Perhaps, it was this spartan spirit and stout positive mental  attitude and belief in the divine, that endured him on the job even when it was glaring he was not enjoying the best of relationships with his superiors, until his reappointment went viral,  on both conventional and social media, thereby putting to rest, speculations as to whether or not he was going to make it to the second term.

We believe and are convinced time is ripe for Danbatta to apply himself to his job and purge himself of whatever ill feelings he might have nursed during the period of his ordeal, whatever they were, knowing he needs every positive energy he could muster from within and without , to help him on the onerous task of regulating the telecoms sector, at a most challenging period, especially as the second half of his career as chief telecoms regulator does not present as an easy one at a time that industry consolidation is in the offing.

From every angle one looks at it, Danbatta’s reappointment is a testimony to his relevance to the digital scheme of things in Nigeria.  He must now prove himself capable of learning, relearning and unlearning lessons, as the case may be, in order to make a huge success of his second term and overall career at the NCC.

For Danbatta, there is no new wheel to reinvent.   Having survived the game of musical chairs,as it were,  it is our view, he must improve on his confidence level while working on ingenious ways to preserve the independence of the Nigerian Communications Commission, that is not at its very best at the moment.

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