To achieve the mandate to connect Nigeria and create an information rich society means the Federal government of Nigeria needs to sacrifice some of its privileged and rights to the States and Local Government administrations, opines the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), Mr. Iyiola Ayoola.
He made the remark while fielding questions from select IT Editors in Lagos, reiterating that to rave-up broadband infrastructure deployments and subsequent penetration across the country implies that even the Communications Act 2003 should be amended such that certain items in the exclusive list should be brought to the concurrent list.
This, Ayoola said, will help to tackle the issue of Right of Way and multiplicity of challenges faced by mobile network operators in the deployment of service.
President Buhari had in March 2021 unveiled new National Broadband Plan (NNBP 2020–2025), stressing that to ensure full attainment of the targets Mobile Network Operators need to give special attention to un-served and underserved areas when deploying telecom services.
However, Ayoola believes that the 70% broadband penetration target as stipulated in the Plan is achievable if the multifaceted challenges operators face in the deployment of services are addressed.
Apart from that, the ES advised State Governments to think out-of-the-box to create jobs for the youth while protecting entrepreneurs who are the main drives of modern economies.
He hinted that the States can start by prioritise digital skills development and through the domestication of NITDA Acts in their respective domains.
He said this will provide the necessary digital impetus to the actualization of the economic diversification of President Muhammadu Buhari led administration, tailored towards a digital Nigeria.
In Ayoola words: “There is need to domesticate broadband policies in the States and Local government levels. It will help for easier decision making and deployment of services. The federal government will need to make that sacrifice if we really want development to happen at the rural areas.
“For some time now I have been calling on Governors to domesticate NITDA in their respective States; even the Ministry, Galaxy Backbone. If we do that, development will happen faster, especially in the area of infrastructure deployment.
“The Communications Act which is in the exclusive list should be extended to the Concurrent list. The Act should be amended by the National Assembly; just like you have the Judiciary down to magistrate level. There may be arguments that security has close ties with security. Now, some aspects of the Act should be decentralized.
“You see a situation people stay in Abuja to make policies that affect rural areas when it comes to deployment the companies interface with the rural dwellers. It is at that point they (companies) begin to see realities on ground. If we decentralize the Communications Act this issue of Right of Way (RoW) could be easily dealt with.
“Now, NITDA is building hubs across the six geo-political zones. That is good initiatives but will the hubs be able to absorb the pressure and solve needs for mass digital literacy. There should be provision for my local government to start building hubs; every LGA should have at least four ICT hubs.
On ease of doing business, he listed factors that frustrating efforts of the entrepreneurs as; poor electricity (supply), insecurity, banks and other financial institutions’ interest rates and trust-issue within the government circle.
“People still find it difficult to trust the government and some corporates’ inability to keep to agreements.
“Banks now have multiple charges; in fact some are not digestible. You cannot have good business atmosphere that supports business in that kind of situation. Ease of doing business will remain a mirage if these issues are not addressed”.
He advised the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria to streamline a structure for the financial institutions to adopt to support SMEs.
“We should be weary of ‘hit and die business ventures’ that liter the streets of our country. When these businesses are launching for the first time we see hope, confidence and drives to succeed, but within a short period they are choked by excessive burdens of multiple taxation and other factors listed above. This is not how we are going to create jobs for millions of unemployed Nigerians. It is time we thought of ways to assist the SME,” he said.