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Concerns over government’s undue interference in NCC’s role

By on March 22, 2016

Telecoms industry stakeholders have expressed concerned that the Presidential arm of government is making too much incursion into the activities of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). They have expressed worries that such action could usurp the powers of the NCC and make nonsense of telecoms regulation in the country, if not checked.

The Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), the umbrella body of all telecommunications companies in Nigeria, raised the alarm during the visit of ATCON delegation to NCC in Abuja, recently.

Led by its President, Lanre Ajayi ATCON was particularly worried about what it regarded as the overbearing attitude of the Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA) to intervene in the N1.04 trillion fine imposed by NCC on MTN Nigeria for its refusal to deactivate 5.2 million improperly registered SIM cards on its network.

Although negotiations are still ongoing between MTN and the ONSA, the Association said it was wrong for the Presidency to open up negotiations with MTN, without the involvement of the NCC, the industry regulator, which imposed the fine, based on certain infractions committed by MTN.

The association noted that the action of the Presidency may whittle down regulatory powers of the NCC.

Specifically, Ajayi observed that the NCC’s independence was being gradually eroded and called on the Commission to rise up to the challenge.

The House of Representatives had last week, also insisted that the NCC be involved in the ongoing negotiation process between the Presidency and the MTN, to enable it make useful impact as the telecoms regulator that initiated the fine.

According to Ajayi, “Decree 75 of 1992 deregulated the telecoms industry which led to the emergence of some private telecoms companies but it did not lead to remarkable growth of the telecoms industry. Significant growth commenced after the enactment of Telecoms Act 2003 which granted NCC independence that kept its operation away from political interference. The immediate result was a transparent auction of the GSM spectrum contrary to the earlier practice of issuing out license based on patronage.”

’’The independence of NCC had led to an unimaginable transformation of the sector. Regrettably in recent times, NCC is being robbed of the independence contrary to the spirit and letters of Telecoms Act 2003. This became more manifest when the issue of MTN fine arose, as some other organs of government virtually took over the responsibility of NCC. We consider this trend ominous and call on NCC to take charge of its responsibilities and exert its power as guaranteed under the law,’’ Ajayi said.

He added: ‘’At this point, we will like to advise that all politicians and public officers who are not of NCC and who seems to have abandoned their core jobs to focus on this MTN fine, to please allow the NCC, who is charged with the responsibility of regulating the industry, to handle the matter professionally and in the best interest of the nation.’’