On Friday, June 5, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari confirmed the reappointment of Professor Umar Garba Danbatta as the executive vice-chairman (EVC) and CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the country’s telecom regulator.
The NCC stated that the reappointment was based on the recommendation of the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami.
According to the NCC, the Nigerian federal government made the move in order to consolidate the recent gains made in the nation's telecom sector. Pantami also urged the NCC's EVC to improve on milestones already made by the commission, in line with the federal government's policies.
Recall that on August 4 2015, President Buhari appointed Danbatta as EVC of the NCC in an acting capacity, taking over the helm from previous EVC, Dr Eugene Juwah, upon expiration of the latter's five-year tenure.
On November 26, the Nigerian Senate confirmed his appointment as the EVC of the country's telecom regulator where he has served for the past 5 years.
Prof. Danbatta obtained his BEng and MSc degrees from the Technical University of Wroclaw in Poland, and his PhD from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), the UK.
He also served as a telecommunications lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering, Faculty of Technology of Bayero University, Kano for 28 years. He was Dean of Faculty, Head of Department, Deputy and Acting Dean of Students, and later, the Director of the Centre for Information Technology.
His appointment comes on the back of some major milestones in Nigeria's telecom industry, will lead these recent developments in Nigeria's telecom sector.
Earlier in February 2020, the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy announced a new national broadband plan, upon expiration of the old one in 2018. The new plan envisaged a 70% broadband penetration and a 90% 4G coverage by 2025, amongst other goals.
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We, however, noted that the achievement of this plan will require more effort since it appeared to face similar problems that hindered the realisation of the previous plans. These include Right of Way (RoW) charges to lay fibre-optic cables along state roads, vandalism of telecom equipment and power.
Encouragingly, in the past few weeks, a number of Nigerian states -- Ekiti, Kaduna, Imo, Plateau, Kastina, Anambra and Kwara -- drastically reduced RoW fees from between ₦4500 ($11.59) and ₦145 ($0.37) per metre. Kaduna ordered a total waive, and Anambra reduced it to ₦1 per metre.
Last week, the federal government also declared that all telecom infrastructure as Critical National Infrastructure (CNI). This means national security operatives will be deployed to protect telecom infrastructure as is done with oil pipelines and power.
Within Danbatta's five year tenure, NCC granted a temporary license for MTN to conduct a 5G demo in Lagos, Abuja, and Calabar, which has since concluded.
The regulator has fined telcos repeatedly for various defaults and it has made great strides in improving customer support across various platforms.
The next five years will likely be an interesting one for Nigeria's telecommunications sector as the country seeks to deepen connectivity across the nation.