By Florence Onuegbu
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says provisions have been made in its 2017 budget to extend telecommunications services to additional 40 million people across the country.
The Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Umar Dambatta, made this known in Lagos during a sensitisation workshop organised by NCC for law enforcement agencies on telecommunications issues.
Dambatta, represented by the Director of Public Affairs, NCC, Mr Tony Ojobo, said that the commission had conducted a survey, which identified about 200 communities nationwide with access gap.
He said that through the Universal Service Provision Fund (ISPF) being managed by a department under NCC, 40 million people in these areas would be covered in 2017.
According to him, the empirical studies have shown correlation between usage of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and social development.
He said that access to telecommunications services had caused direct and indirect rise in employment generation across the sectors of the economy.
“As you are aware, the growth witnessed in the telecommunications sector in the last 15 years has been phenomenal by all standards.
“From less than half a million lines on the eve of our democratic revival, today, active connected telephone lines are about 150 million, which has come with a contributing increase in tele-density.
“Development in other sectors of the economy had been shaped positively and measurably by the potent realities in the telecommunications sectors.
“We look forward to seeing greater development in the sector, because we are irrevocably committed to full implementation of the National Broadband Plan,” he said.
He said that NCC was determined to move fast in its mandate of harnessing the potential of the ICT sector to boost national economy.
Dambatta said that the industry’s contribution to the national Gross Domestic Products (GDP) was about 10 per cent and NCC was committed to seeing greater development in the sector.
“In this respect, two Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) have been licensed, while the remaining five companies will be licensed shortly to commence the deployment of more broadband fibre networks beyond the major cities in the country.
“Our model, anchored on robust development of infrastructure, transmission and retail segment, is expected to speed up the cascading of networks of fibre required by individuals and businesses to improve life and catalyse the economic growth,” he said.
According to him, these tasks underscore the need for collaborations with security agencies to curtail criminal assault against telecommunications infrastructure.
He said the mandate before the NCC in ensuring that the telecommunications sector contributed more to the economy triggered the zeal to perform and the need to halt obstacles to the realisation of its objectives.
The EVC said that the industry had witnessed rise in the theft of telecommunications infrastructure and vandalism of installed facilities and equipment.
Dambatta added that the industry had witnessed usage of preregistered Subscribers Identification Module (SIM) cards, all of which were infractions of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 and other extant regulations governing the industry.
He said that while the commission rolled out various campaigns to raise awareness and made some arrest with the support of the police, there was need for effective strategies to ensure that anyone arrested was prosecuted.
The Inspector General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris, said that the police would do everything possible to protect lives and properties.
Idris represented by the Deputy Inspector General of Police in-charge of ICT, Mr Folusho Adebanjo, called on the people to see telecommunications infrastructure within their localities as communal assets.
“The law enforcement officers must work with the community people because as they are responsible in performing their duties, the community people must see telecommunications infrastructure as communal assets and report suspected criminal activities to the police,” he said.