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Thursday 23rd March, 2023

Telecoms

NCC Actively Involved In Actualisation Of FG’s Financial Inclusion Target- Danbatta

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Prof, Umar Danbatta, NCC Executive Vice Chairman

Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta has said that the Commission has been actively involved in the actualisation of the Federal Government’s financial inclusion target of 20% exclusion or 80% inclusion by the year 2020. 

However,  the EVC recalled that a recent report by EFInA, a financial sector development organisation, indicates that even though its data showed that more people have become financially included, the financial inclusion pace was, however, not matching the country’s population growth rate.

Danbatta spoke as a guest lecturer at the 5th Annual ‘The Bullion Lecture’ organised by the Centre for Financial Journalism On Thursday, March 11, 2021.

Focusing on the theme “Driving Pervasive Broadband Penetration to Deepen Digital Financial Inclusion for Nigeria’s Socio-economic Transformation,” the EVC noted that to achieve an accelerated financial inclusion target that Nigeria desires, technology and more importantly, broadband, has to play a massive significant role.

“What I see technology doing in terms of Nigeria’s financial inclusion is actually to democratize access.  In doing this, the NCC embarked on various regulatory initiatives that have continued to increase access to telephone lines and improve access to high-speed Internet or broadband,” he said.

Danbatta stated that the various regulatory initiatives are in line with the Commission’s mandate of ensuring universal access to telecoms services in the country consistent with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)’s goal of achieving digital inclusion, globally.

“Foremost amongst these regulatory initiatives, is the implementation of the Open Access Model for infrastructure deployment through the competitively selected Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) called the InfraCo Project.

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“The InfraCo initiative is expected to provide, at a minimum, broadband fibre and connectivity to every Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the Federation, totalling 774 fibre Points of Access (PoAs) with a minimum speed of 10 Gbps which will translate to, at least, 38,296km of Optic Fibre Cable (OFC) to the Transmission over the next years.

“So far, the Commission has licensed six of the seven InfraCos to implement this project and it is intended that the presence of fibre point of access in each LGA will not only spur development, lower cost of entry for telcos and bring about innovative services and applications, but also, improve the conditions of living in the rural, urban and semi-urban areas, especially with respect to access to financial services.

“The InfraCo Project can be considered as the beginning of the “Next Level” journey towards achieving the 120,000km target of fibre connectivity set by the current administration. We have recently begun a process to strategically review the InfraCo framework and its funding options towards ensuring effective implementation of the national fibre project. When fully implemented, it will ensure robust and pervasive broadband infrastructure to drive availability, accessibility and affordability of financial services,” Danbatta further stated.

The EVC noted that the NCC also provided the requisite infrastructure, connectivity and capacity to interconnect four Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in Lagos, Enugu, Port Harcourt and Kano in order to localise some of the internet traffic in Nigeria and encourage the creation, hosting and interchange of data within Nigeria.

This, according to him,  has enabled the local hosting of companies like Google, Facebook, Vodacom, China Telecom, Akamai, Juniper Solutions etc. alongside all major Nigerian Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Mobile Network Operators, Sub-Marine Cable Operators as well as major tier 1 to 3 Data Centers.

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“This has not only reduced cost, which is key to digital financial inclusion and conserved foreign exchange but also has drastically reduced latency thus, ensuring the sustainability of digital financial services,” he said.

Danbatta said that as telecommunication services and infrastructure became more accessible in the country, the banks identified the Unstructured Supplementary Data Service (USSD) channel as a cost-efficient way of delivering financial services to their customers, explaining why the banks subsequently applied for and were granted USSD shortcodes by the Commission to deliver financial services to Nigerians.

“The banks, Other Financial Institutions (OFI) and mobile money operators licensed by the CBN are now leveraging a large number of mobile subscriptions in the country to provide mobile-based financial transactions to Nigerians, leveraging the USSD platform on Mobile Network Operators (MNOs),” he said.

The EVC said the NCC has actively engaged and collaborated with the CBN, through the signing of a momentous Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to ensure mobile money licenses are also issued to telecoms operators that will operate as Payment Service Bank (PSB).

“This is based on the recognition of the fact that, since the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) own the over 204 million mobile subscribers- scattered in rural and urban settings- on their networks, allowing these operators to offer direct digital financial services to their customers would produce better financial inclusion traction.”

The Commission he said has been partnering with relevant organisations and stakeholders and lately with a foremost international organization, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), to ensure better cooperation between telecommunications and the banking sectors towards advancing the frontiers of financial inclusion in Nigeria.

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Telecoms

7 Months After Ministerial Objection, FG Removes 5% Excise Duty For Telecoms Sector

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L-R: Jacqueline Olowolayemo, Senior Administrative Manager, Mafab Communications Ltd.; Prof Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Hon. Minister of Communications and Digital Economy; Dr. Vincent Olatunji, National Commissioner/Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Data Protection Bureau and Anas Galadima, Senior Manager, Public Affairs, MTN Nigeria, during a press briefing by the Presidential Review Committee on Excise Duty in the Digital Economy Sector in Abuja on Tuesday, March 21, 2023.

Seven months after the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami led objections to the proposed application of 5 per cent excise duty on Nigeria’s telecom sector, the Federal Government Tuesday officially announced the removal of excise duty for the telecom sub-sector of Nigeria’s Digital Economy Industry.

The removal of excise duty in the sub-sector, Digital TimesNG learnt, is in line with the recommendations of the Committee the Federal Government constituted to review the applicability of the Duty to the telecom sector which is considered already overburdened with taxation and sundry levies.

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, disclosed this good news on Tuesday at a press briefing organised to provide updates on the status of the 5 per cent excise duty, whose applicability to the telecom sector was objected to by the Minister in August 2022.

Recall that in response to this objection, President Muhammadu Buhari suspended the application of excise duty to the telecom sector and set up a Presidential Review Committee on Excise Duty in the Digital Economy Sector.

Pantami, who is the Chairman of the Committee, specifically set up for the purpose of reviewing the proposed excise duty in the telecom sector, said the Committee had carried out its national assignment and accordingly submitted its report to the President, justifying why the sector should be exempted.

The Minister said the Committee’s submissions can be summed up in three arguments put forward to justify why additional burden in form of taxes or any level should not be imposed on the telecom sector to prevent a reversal of the important contribution the sector is making to the growth of the Nigerian economy.

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“Our justifications are based on three premises: First, is the fact that operators in the telecoms sub-sector of the digital economy industry currently pay no fewer than 41 different categories of taxes, levies and charges; secondly, that telecoms have continued to be a major contributor to the Nigerian economy in terms of Gross Domestic Product Contribution (GDP).

“The third ground for contesting the Excise Duty in the telecom sector is the fact that, despite the increase in the cost of all factors of production across the sector, and naturally leading to increase in costs of products and services, telecom sector is the only sector where the cost of service has been stable and in many cases continued to go down over the past years and therefore, adding more burden will destroy the sector,” the Minister said.

Pantami also informed the gathering that the President, having looked into the arguments put forward by the Committee and relying on the provision of Section 5 of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, as amended, has therefore, exempted the telecom sector from the list of sectors to pay the excise duty as stated in Finance Act of 2021 and other subsidiary legislations, all of which are not as superior as the Constitution which permits the President to grant such waiver.

“I am happy to report to you that President Muhammadu Buhari, has approved the exemption of the digital economy sector from the five per cent excise duty to be paid and this is because of the strength of the argument presented to him by the Committee that additional burden on telecom sector will increase the sufferings of Nigerians and that other sectors that are not making as much contribution to the economy should be challenged to do more and pay the 5 per cent excise duty.”

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The Minister assured Nigerians, who are telecom consumers, that the presidential exemption given to the telecom sector shall be sustained by the incoming administration as “the decision by the President is not about any political party or any administration but about Nigeria and welfare of Nigerian citizens.”

The Minister further noted that the Digital Economy Sector has continued to contribute significantly to the growth of the Nigerian economy, having contributed 14.07 per cent to the GDP in the first quarter of 2020; 17.79 per cent in the second quarter of 2021; and 18.44 per cent in the second quarter of 2022.

He said the sector has also increased its quarterly revenue generation for the government from N51 billion to over N480 billion, representing a growth of 594 per cent; while the cost of buying data has also reduced from N1,200 in 2019 to N350 presently, despite the increase in the cost of operations, including the energy challenge that has caused mobile network operators to power base stations with over 32,000 power generating to provide seamless services to their teeming consumers.

 

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Telecoms

2023 WCRD Theme, A Call To Examine Environmental Impact Of Telecom- Adewolu

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Mr. Adeleke Adewolu, NCC’s Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said that the theme of this year’s World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD), which is “Empowering Consumers through Clean Energy Transition,” provides players in the telecommunication industry the opportunity to carefully examine the unintended side effects of the industry’s critical social infrastructure on the environment.

Mr. Adeleke Adewolu, NCC’s Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management (ECSM) stated this in his opening remarks at the celebration of the 2023 World Consumer Rights Day held at the NCC headquarters annex, in Abuja on Wednesday.

He said that the celebration is being pivoted around a theme that allows telecom service providers and stakeholders to design more environmentally sustainable service models that would enable them truly serve the consumer better.

Adewolu noted that the Nigerian telecoms industry today boasts of over 226 million voice customers and over 156 million Internet customers as of January 31, 2023, who leverage communications infrastructure for social interaction, health service, access to education, and banking, among others.

“As consumer volumes and service diversity continue to grow, network operators have to roll out more infrastructure for coverage in new, mostly rural areas, and for network expansion in already saturated urban markets.

“Emerging technologies like 5th Generation (5G) mobile services will also require more infrastructure. These infrastructure components are mostly powered by fossil fuels to ensure 100% availability,” he said.

To understand further, the environmental impact of these activities, Adewolu raised some posers for telecom stakeholders especially, the service providers at the event:

“Are there more environmentally conscious means by which we can power network infrastructure and reduce our carbon footprint? Telecoms infrastructure has helped to reduce other environment-impacting activities such as travel – can we quantify these benefits and do they offset the negative impacts?

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“Have we convinced everyone about the safety of electromagnetic emissions? Can we find a balance between environmentally-friendly network operations and cheaper services; or do we have to choose one over the other? How can we improve the quality of the environment through our network services and how can we grow public consciousness about responsible services using telecoms infrastructure?”

He challenged the stakeholders to find answers to these and other nagging questions.

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Telecoms

Danbatta Outlines NCC’s Initiatives Aimed At Protecting The Nigerian Environment

The EVC promised that in the course of the year, the Commission’s Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB) will sensitize telecom consumers about these interventions aimed at making the environment better for all of humanity.

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Nigeria’s telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has in addition to the policy on renewable energy in the telecom sector, put in place laudable initiatives geared towards protecting the Nigerian environment, Digital Times Nigeria can report.

For instance, the Commission has in recent years introduced a regulatory framework on infrastructure sharing and collocation among the licensees which the Commission admitted, has encouraged operators to fully maximise their already-deployment infrastructure.

Speaking at the 2023 World Consumer Rights Day celebration held in Abuja, NCC’s Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta pointed out that by sharing infrastructure, some operators do not need to entirely build a telecoms site in an area where another operator had deployed one.

“With the challenge of inadequate public electricity supply in Nigeria, telecom companies rely on diesel-powered generators to keep their telecom sites live round-the-clock. A regulatory framework such as infrastructure sharing, and collocation is helping in this regard and the Commission has recorded appreciable adoption of this regulation,” Danbatta elaborated.

Another regulatory initiative embarked upon by the NCC for a clean Nigerian environment is the Commission’s Type Approval Regulations, which promotes the NCC’s official authorisation prior to the use or supply of an Equipment Type in Nigeria.

“Our Type Approval of devices factors in energy efficiency, among others, which ensures a reduction of power consumption. It also ensures that Radio Frequency devices used in Nigeria operate effectively, without causing harmful interference and otherwise comply with the Commission’s technical requirement prior to importation or marketing,” the NCC boss said.

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Yet, the NCC-organised annual tech innovation competitions for young innovators in Nigeria, also make considerations for inventions that address the challenges of renewable energy.

The NCC EVC noted at the 2023 World Consumer Rights Day celebration in Abuja, that some of the entries submitted in this regard are in the process of being commercialized as the innovators are seeking investors to make their discoveries available to the public.

“The Commission will continue to support research and innovations that contribute to transitioning to renewable energy sources,” he said.

Also connected to NCC’s regulatory efforts in dealing with issues of sanitizing the Nigerian environment were its efforts in 2019 to commence activities that will result in the formulation of a Regulation on E-Waste in Nigeria.

It is obvious like the EVC noted, that today, the global concern for the regulation of e-waste is two-pronged. First, is the acute awareness of the hazardous properties and the potential risk to human health, as well as their capacity to degrade the environment.

Secondly, is the business case and vast potential for wealth creation in recycling e-waste into more benign and productive uses.

But in line with its regulatory mandate and to keep pace with efforts at managing e-waste-related issues, in a manner that reduces cases of indiscriminate burning of electronic devices with the potential for increased carbon emission in the environment, the Commission has been working, with other relevant agencies, to develop Regulations on E-waste.

The Regulations, according to Danbatta, will represent a holistic intervention aimed at providing clarity and delimiting the responsibilities of various stakeholders in the e-waste value chain within the telecommunications industry, adding that while the proposed Regulations are industry-specific, they, nonetheless, key into other initiatives at national and international levels.

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The EVC promised that in the course of the year, the Commission’s Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB) will sensitize telecom consumers about these interventions aimed at making the environment better for all of humanity.

“The CAB will carry this out as part of its Consumer Education mandate, with a significant part of this effort dedicated to providing information that equips the consumer to thrive in a world that has embraced digital finance.

“Through its outreach programmes, which have continued to re-tool to reflect existing realities and trends, the CAB will use its consumer-centric initiatives such as the Telecom Consumer Parliament (TCP), Telecom Consumer Town Hall on Radio (TCTHR), Telecom Consumer Conversations (TCC) as well as social media platforms and Consumer Portal to sensitize consumers on how renewable energy benefits them and their role in achieving industry transition to it in the interest of the environment,” Danbatta pledged.

He informed his audience that the Bureau will develop and produce various consumer education materials such as Flexi and Roll-up Banners, and Handbills, and update its Consumer Handbook to include the message about renewable energy.

Danbatta assured that as the global community celebrates World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) 2023, the theme of this year will form part of the consideration of the Commission’s regulatory mandate and reaffirmed the Commission’s commitment to responsibly use the world’s resources, including protecting the environment by supporting the industry, to transition to renewable energy.

 

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