By Precious John, Senior Special Correspondent
As a sign of fidelity to its renowned tradition and belief in strategic partnership and collaboration, telecommunications sector regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has expressed its readiness to collaborate with the Bayelsa State Government, south south Nigeria, in accelerating telecommunications infrastructure deployment, digital literacy and skills in the State.
According to a statement to which this medium is privy, signed by the Director of Public Affairs (DPA) at NCC, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (EVC/CEO) of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, reiterated this commitment during a courtesy visit by a delegation from Bayelsa State to the Management of NCC in Abuja recently.
Stating the purpose of the visit to the Commission, Bayelsa State’s Commissioner for Communications, Science and Technology, Dr. Promise Ekio Ekio, who led the delegation, said Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector was one of the critical areas that the state government had identified for priority to accelerate the growth of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the State in order to bolster employment for the youths of the state and to nudge their interest in digital culture.
Dr. Ekio said that while the plan to leverage ICT for socio-economic development of Bayelsa State had been uppermost in the agenda of the state government, several engagements made by the State government with industry stakeholders were yet to receive concrete action, apparent due to lack of robust telecommunications services in the State.
“Therefore, it is our fervent hope that this meeting will be the beginning of a partnership that will blossom in the areas of digital training and rapid ICT infrastructural development, for the benefit of the people of Bayelsa State and other Nigerians living in the State. We want to assure the Commission of our preparedness to work closely with it to fulfill its mandate in the State as well as actualise the vision of Bayelsa State government to leverage ICT for accelerating development,” Ekio said.
Also, the Bayelsa State Commissioner Communication, Science and Technology, commended the NCC for the good works it was doing in fast-tracking implementation of the digital economy initiatives of the Federal Government by being upbeat in consolidating the gains of the telecommunications sector and promised that Bayelsa State would also provide necessary incentives to accelerate ICT deployment in the State.
Responding to his guests, Prof. Danbatta, who was represented during the meeting by NCC’s Director, Digital Economy, Dr. Augustine Nwaulune, commended Bayelsa State Government for seeking collaboration with NCC to stimulate economic growth through telecommunication services and assured that NCC was a ready and willing partner of Bayelsa State on telecoms and ICT.
While the Commission was willing to partner with state governments and other relevant institutions to ensure universal access and universal services, Danbatta said efforts should be made collaboratively to ensure that relevant infrastructure needed to delivering ubiquitous telecom services to achieve Bayelsa’s socio-economic goal were prioritized.
Danbatta emphasized the Commission’s recognition of the importance of infrastructure expansion in achieving Federal Government’s vision on digital economy. Citing the Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP) 2020-2025 as one of the initiatives of the Federal Government instituted to bolster infrastructure expansion, the NCC boss stated that the implementation of the Plan was essentially driven by NCC and promised that NCC would ensure that infrastructure gaps in the telecommunications sector were bridged to accomplish Government’s vision in the context of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy 2020-30.
He further stated that, to accelerate broadband infrastructure deployment in the South-South geo-political zone where Bayelsa State was situated, the NCC had licensed Messrs Raeaana Limited, as one of the seven licensed Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos), authorised to cascade fibre to deepen the penetration of broadband services in all nooks and crannies of the country. “The InfraCo licensees have been given timelines to work in their respective zones of deployment to cascade fibre infrastructure to the rural communities, covering the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) to enhance robust telecom service provisioning in the country”, Danbatta stated.
Meanwhile, the EVC/CEO at NCC urged the Bayelsa State Government to revisit the Right of Way (RoW) charges imposed by the State and other issues capable of encumbering faster deployment of infrastructure in the State. “This will boost digital infrastructure rollout in towns and communities in Bayelsa State and environs for effective economic diversification. The digital economy rides on broadband and ICT infrastructure and one of the factors inhibiting access to telecommunication infrastructure is RoW administration by States and other state actors” he said.
Danbatta also emphasised the importance of comprehensive training for the youth in Bayelsa State and equipping them with ICT tools to enable them thrive in a digital economy. “On this, the NCC will collaborate with Bayelsa to provide training for the youth as long as the State Government provide necessary tools required to achieve objective outcomes of such capacity building initiatives”, he said.