In order to clearly differentiate the regulatory roles of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) from the Information Technology (IT) policy development and implementation roles of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the federal government has approved the review of NCC Act 2003.
The decision of the federal government to distinctly differentiate the roles of both government agencies is coming on the hills of the recent friction between NCC and NITDA over industry regulatory issues, which almost undermined the contribution of the telecoms’ sector to national Gross Domestic Products (GDP).
Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, who confirmed the review of the NCC Act 2003, said NCC has concluded on the first and second draft of the review and has submitted same to the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani for approval, before the final draft would be released.
Danbatta who spoke at the Telecom Executives and Regulators Forum (TERF) in Lagos said: “The Nigerian Communication Act is currently being reviewed. The first and second draft has been concluded and the final draft will soon be released. The second draft has been made available to the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani. We had to review the NCC Act to ensure that all areas of conflicts and overlaps can be addressed so that NITDA and |NCC can co-exist without friction of roles.”
The NCC Act 2003, which was signed into law by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo on July 8, 2003, empowers NCC as a regulator to create a regulatory framework for the Nigerian communications industry and to promote the implementation of national telecommunications policy as may, from time to time, be modified and amended.
The NCC Act is however being reviewed, following the proposed NITDA Bill that was sent to the ninth Assembly some months ago, which seeks to convert NITDA from a development agency to regulatory agency.
The bill seeks to enact an Act that will empower NITDA to provide for the administration, implementation and regulation of Information Technology Systems and Practice in Nigeria, which will automatically convert NITDA from a development agency to regulatory agency in a sector where there is an existing regulator.
Worried that the proposed NITDA Bill would generate regulatory friction between NCC and NITDA, industry stakeholders vehemently kicked against the bill and wrote to the National Assembly, asking the honourable members to drop the bill, which according to them, did not represent the interest of industry stakeholders.
After passing through the first and second readings on the floor of the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on ICT and Cyber Security, the proposed NITDA Bill was sent to former President Muhammadu Buhari to sign it into law, but the bill was not among those signed by Buhari before leaving office on May 29, 2023.
Industry stakeholders were aggrieved over the proposed NITDA Bill because their inputs were not considered, and their interests not represented.
The former President of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), Prof. Adesina Sodiya, had in a letter to the National Assembly members, told them not to hesitate in dropping the bill because according to him, it is an affront on industry stakeholders, since the proposed NITDA Bill did not take into cognisance, the contributions of industry stakeholders who made contributions to the bill during a stakeholders’ meeting organised by NITDA.
Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, told TISDAY that bill would have led to disintegration of the telecoms sector that has contributed so much to Nigeria’s GDP growth and broadband penetration, if it was signed into law.
Adebayo called for speedy review of the NCC Act, which he said, would clearly define the role of NCC as the indisputable telecoms regulator, whose efforts have contributed to the immense growth of the telecoms sector and the Nigerian economy.