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Events of 2009: Telecoms Featured

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Nigerian Community
Written by Anthony Akaeze
The quality of their services is still poor......

   If there were still any NITEL (Nigeria Telecommunications Limited) staff  that  nursed the hope that the company would return to its former status as a telecoms service provider in Nigeria, that optimism was dashed in  May 2009 when the federal government cancelled the sale of the company to Transcorp and proceeded to advertise same for sale again.  That finally sounded the death knell on the embattled Nigerian company. The decision to do away with the organisation was first taken during the former administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo which ended up selling majority shares of the company to Transcorp.

   But President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, his successor, wanted to reverse the order early in 2008 but later changed his mind. However, a little over a year later, the government finally  carried out the action.  In May 2009, it  revoked the sale of both NITEL and its mobile subsidiary, M-tel, to Transcorp, and requested fresh bids from investors.

   The government’s decision to cancel the sale was not probably unconnected with its findings as well as opinions in some quarters that Transcorp lacks the capacity to turn around the ailing telecoms company. But Transcorp’s management has often dismissed such assertions as lies, and to prove its point, headed  for court to challenge the government’s decision.

   That, however, didn’t stop the Yar’Adua administration from proceeding with its plans for NITEL. The government said it would sell off the assets of NITEL in units, and, through the Bureau for Public Enterprises, BPE, announced a new round of bids from willing investors. Among the many companies that showed interest in acquiring  the company were some GSM service providers like the MTN, Globacom and Etisalat. But to their shock, the government later said that none of them would be allowed to participate in the bidding process.

   Christopher Anyanwu, director-general of the BPE, said that the decision to bar the GSM companies from  bidding for the company was to prevent cut-throat competition and conflict among the GSM firms.

   The bid for the sale of the company closed on October 2, with no announcement of any preferred bidder yet. This suggests that  Nigerians have probably not heard the last about the NITEL transaction.

   With innovations and advancement in technology being recorded across the world, Nigeria, in 2009, consolidated its efforts in keeping abreast with the rest of the world. It launched the State Accelerated Broadband Initiative, SABI, in Kano, which is one of the  states to benefit from the scheme. The project would expectedly  reduce the cost of enjoying internet and technological services and make it possible for more people, including those in rural and semi-urban areas to gain access to them.

   In an interview in October 2009, Ernest Ndukwe, the vice-chairman of the Nigeria Communications Commission, said: “When people use broadband, their lives get better, they have more money, it creates new services and leads to job creation.”

   The year 2009 also saw one of the country’s telecoms companies, Globacom, creating waves. The company, in November, won a licence to provide telecoms services to Cote’d Ivoire. This brought to three, the number of African countries that the company has made its services available. The others are Benin Republic and Ghana. Such achievements led  the Nigeria  Information Technology and Telecommunications Award, NITTA, to confer the ‘Telecoms  Man of the Year Award’ on Mike Adenuga, Globacom’s chairman.

   One other issue that cropped up in 2009 was the supremacy fight between Dora Akunyili, information and telecommunications minister, and Ndukwe, the NCC boss. The struggle was sparked off  by the granting of 2.3 GHz Spectrum licence to Mobitel by the NCC after the completion of the bidding process in July. But Akunyili was displeased.

   She said that the process leading to the granting of the licence was done without her approval, and suggested that it was done in less than transparent manner. She then ordered a fresh exercise. The issue caused a rift between the duo and was only resolved by the intervention of the presidency which obliged Akunyili’s  request. However, as at December, no operator had emerged for the 2.3 GHz spectrum licence.

   By the end of last year too, it was clear that the desire of Nigerians to enjoy excellent telecoms services like many subscribers in other parts of the world may not materialise soon. 2009  was no different from previous years with regards to complaints over drop calls, inability to make calls owing to lack of connection, blurred calls, missing credit and generally poor services which had assailed the sector over the years. These, coupled with the high tariff still being charged by the telecoms companies, have been a source of worry to many subscribers. It was something Akunyili had promised to find a solution to soon after she was appointed minister of information and telecommunications a little over a year ago. Akunyili had promised to confer with the telecoms operators with a view to arriving at a cheaper tariff for Nigerians, but that did not happen.

Reported by Emmanuel Uffot

Read 2046 times Last modified on %AM, %16 %170 %2010 %03:%Jan
Godwin Ibe

Medical Doctor (GP), IT professional, Web Designer, CELTA Certified Teacher of English, Economist and International Trade Marketer.

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