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Olumide Samuel among 100 Leading Personalities in the Nigerian telecoms/ICT sector

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The Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) recently launched a book profiling 100 Leading Personalities in the Nigerian telecommunication and ICT sector.

One of the much celebrated personalities is the CEO of Priority Communications Limited, Olumide Samuel; a company he founded about ten years ago.

Before then, he had worked with various companies in different sectors of the economy, but essentially also in the ICT industry, where he has been contributing his own quota to the growth of the industry through innovations.

The man, Olumide Samuel

Olumide is a 1991 graduate of Electrical Engineering from the University of Lagos Akoka. He also has an MBA (Marketing) from Lagos State University.

He has attended several overseas and local training  programmes such as Senior Management Programme (SMP 21), Lagos  Business school, LBS,( June 2004); Suppercomm  Exhibition in Chicago, USA; iDirect  Vsat Training in Virginia Washington, USA; Cisco  seminars at Golden Gate Restaurant, Ikoyi,  Abidjan, Ivory Coast (2001), Sun City, South Africa (2002), and  Pandatel  Training Programme  in  Hamburg, Germany (Nov, 2004). He is an alumnus of the Lagos Business School. He is happily married and blessed with children.

The Company

Priority Communications Limited is a leading player in telecommunications and data communications services to private, public, and corporate organisations in Nigeria and sub-Sahara African countries.

The company offers products and services geared towards the development and utilisation of broadband computer technologies that offers fast, efficient, effective and easy access to business enterprises in the delivery of prompt services to their various customers anywhere and at any time.

Priority Communication’s standard policy ensures that it connect and deliver first-class, modern engineering equipment and support services that conform with best international standard practice to its numerous clients. It’s a duly incorporated company that meets all the statutory requirements as stipulated in the industry operational legal act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the relevant governing regulatory body.

Some of the company’s customers include Guaranty Trust Bank, Zenith Bank, Access Bank, Diamond Bank, Heritage Bank, Union Bank, Wema Bank, FedEx Express, Niger Insurance Plc, among several others.

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Impacting the industry

Priority Communications services has contributed in no small measure to the growth of the Nigerian banking industry.

In the words of Olumide, “through our connectivity services, a lot of our customers are able to roll out branches very fast. We also noticed that in the last couple of years, some of them have gone into setting up ATMS and cash centres in areas where they do not have branches. We provide the basic infrastructure that is making that possible; we provide the network and because one of our key products is radio, they deploy very fast and downtime is very minimal.”

Innovations

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In the last couple of years, Priority Communication has introduced a lot of new technologies to help its customers get high speed and stability on their networks. “Some time last year, we introduced the air fibre.

It is a radio technology that provides services almost at the capacity of a fibre, it can process up to like 24 gigahertz per second.

Not only is it high capacity, it also has very high level of stability because it has a lot of in-built redundancies.

So, it is a technology that has helped our customers to deliver very stable services. We also deploy very fast. In some locations where it will be difficult for us to use fibre, this becomes very helpful,” Samuel said.

According to the CEO, Priority Communications has also gone into other services like M to M, “that will enable it use GSM data to deploy services for some of its customers. We will keep introducing some of these technologies as we see the need for our customers,” he promised.

Expansion

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While Priority Communications has grown considerably over the years, its CEO believes there are still huge opportunities to grow further because, according to him, “there is still a huge market to be tapped.

Now we have an office in Accra, Ghana, because some of our customers insisted that we should come to Ghana. We are also registered in Kenya, Zambia and a few other African countries.

So, we hope to spring up on those locations and get them to be more active. We also want to expand our base in Nigeria. Currently we have offices in virtually all the major cities in Nigeria. But we need to go further because some states have five major cities, so we need to cover the areas.”

Olumide Samuel with the certificate issued by ATCON conferring him with one of the leading ICT personalities in Nigeria.

CSR

Priority Communications is a socially responsible organisation that values giving back to the society in numerous ways.

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Part of its CSR activities include organising free training for young IT-inclined Nigerians, visiting and donating to orphanages, as well as cleaning the environment.

Taking its CSR further, the company also recently donated a telecommunication mast to the Federal Polytechnic Ile-Oluji, Ondo State.

Challenges

According to Samuel, one major challenge Priority Communications is facing as a company is not different from what other companies are facing in the country and that is the issue of power. “Power is a major constraint. I always wish that the government can just wave a magic wand and it becomes stable. If that headache of power can just be removed, businesses will thrive, because for instance, in our company with different offices all over, imagine how much we are spending on power, with that, how do I get money for branding.”

The other major constraint, according to the CEO, is government policies. “There have been a lot of policy inconsistencies that the environment is becoming almost unpredictable, and you always have to be on your toes. Take for instance, if you go to the United Kingdom, what you bought at 1 dollar three years ago, you still buy it at same price today, but here you cannot do that. This is really affecting our business. We also have the issue of Right of Way, government support is not there. I like what Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is doing of late, they have really tried.”

“There must be top government support because currently, as a business, we are not feeling any government impact. What we hear all the time is ‘come and pay tax’. Nobody cares to ask me how I am surviving as a business. These challenges make running business very difficult and that is why you will see a company doing well today and in another three years, you don’t see them anymore. Companies have a lot to contribute to the economy in the area of tax, employment and even by attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into the country. The dollar is still high for our industry where all equipment is imported and there is no concession. We need foreign exchange at reasonable cost.”

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“Unfortunately too, we have customers who are also suffering the same plight, so we cannot transfer these costs to them.  And you know it is a very competitive environment, if you try to increase their cost, they will tell you and if you cannot do it somebody else will do it, even though such person may end up doing a very bad job for them.”

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Way forward

“What we need is for the government to get closer to the business owners, listen to them and hear their worries; it should not be a one way thing where government only requests you to pay tax. We should also be able to make some demands from government. For instance, many businesses today need grants because one of the major challenges in the country is high interest on loan from banks. I can’t imagine taking a loan at 23 per cent interest, when I cannot even make that kind of profit on my business. If I take such loan, I would just be working for the banks and at the end of the day I won’t be able to pay salary or tax.”

“Forex concession is good, but varying forex windows is not good for businesses at the long run. What we want is for this rate to go down reasonably.

“When it was 150/160, we were complaining because we thought it was high and even then, some were asking for concession. What we need from government is to bring this exchange rate down and that is by strengthening the economy and transforming the country to a producing nation.

“If this is done and there is less need for foreign currency, dollar can come down to about N60 or N50. So, it is not concession that will help us because if I get concession for buying equipment, do I also get concession for paying salaries and other costs?

“More so, my customers who are not getting concessions will still be having challenges. Take for instance, if I am supposed to have like N200 million turnover in the year and I am able to achieve N30 to N50 million, how do I pay salary? Getting concession on about N30 million doesn’t benefit me.

“But if I can do three billion to four billion in a year, and I don’t get any concession, I am happier, because ultimately, it means there is more business in the economy. Concession is just a temporary measure; government should look for a permanent solution to the forex challenge.”

Culled from the book: 100 Leading Personalities in the Nigerian telecoms/ICT Sector

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