Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami

…Says many successes achieved
…Laments 33,000 generators powering telecom sites

By Emmanuel Elebeke

The minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Pantami says President Mohammadu Buhari has empowered only security institutions in the country to gain access to people’s information without confronting the ministry, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, or the service providers to make their work much easier.

This he said has led to the achievement of many successes in the sector, but added that such measures were kept secret because they were not meant for public consumption.

The minister disclosed this on Tuesday while unveiling the NCC Strategic Vision Implementation Plan (2021-2025), NCC Global Connect Podcast, and a Compendium of speeches by the Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta at the NCC Annex office, Mbora, Airport Road, in Abuja.

He said the move by the President became necessary since the Cybercrime Act 2015 and the subsidiary legislation of the Commission allow the government to give such approval when a crime is committed that this will be done after the security agencies established a prima-fast case, then it can be conveyed to the relevant institution.

He noted that ‘‘it will be wrong for anybody to contact the ministry, the NCC or the telecom operators to provide data of any subscriber or whatever reason.

‘‘It is only the security institutions that have power and access to peoples’ lines, we do not have such power, if not it will be abused. It will be wrong for anybody to contact NCC or the ministry to provide data of any subscriber.
‘‘Ours is when we are contacted that we will provide to the security agencies the data they need and even when we are contacted there are requirements constitutionally to do that because telephone conversations are meant to be confidential as stipulated by section 37 subsection 39 of the constitution.

‘‘The Cybercrime Act 2015 and the subsidiary legislation of the Commission allow the government to give such approval when a crime is committed after the security agencies established a prima-fasi case, then it can be conveyed to the relevant institution.

‘‘I can tell you that many successes have been recorded but not meant for public consumption. Today criminals usually block highways and used the phone of victims to contact their families.

There are a lot of things the sector has been doing to support the stability and security of the nation. I am clarifying this because I am being confronted with so many questions and citizens need to understand that we have procedures and it is only when the procedures are respected that we are mandated to provide data.

‘‘Sometimes, security institutions can gain access without confronting us because Mr. President has approved that for security institutions to gain access to people’s information without confronting us make their work much easier than they would have access to many things than when they contact NCC or operators.’’

‘‘At any point in time, in the telecom sector, our position is security takes precedence over economic gains, but if two things must be pursued, this is our priority. But when it is only one, no way can two things can be supported, security is a priority followed by economic benefits and this is our position. And so far, so good,’’ he added.

On the SVIP 2020-2025, he described the plan as key to whatever we do, as it cascades our national policy for implementation.
‘‘This strategy of NCC has cascaded two relevant policies of the government, most importantly the National Digital Economic Policy for Digital Nigeria and National Broadband Plan.

On the implementation of the SVP, the minister said the ministry recognized the need to expand the scope of public space to accommodate the private sector in policy formulation because without them nothing can be achieved.
‘‘We have realized that our main function is to provide the enabling environment for the private sector to thrive by coming up with policies that will private sector more profitable and secure.

Such as developmental policies, this is the main target of the government, hence, we focus more on policies that are friendly and will support the sector to thrive.

‘‘It is clearly stated that two national policies laid the foundation for the vision: the National Digital Economic Strategic Policy for Digital Nigeria’s and National Broadband Plan 2020-2025.

‘‘The private sector is important to us, looking at our national aggregate demand in Nigeria, the entire national budget is less than 9% of our national aggregate demand, while the private sector controls more than 91%, there is no miracle where you will focus on 9% but support the 91% and make it more effective for our country to be successful economically. This is why I am passionate about supporting private sector to be more successful because they content 91% of the national aggregate demand.’’
On the launched EVC’s speeches, he described the book as ‘‘a great gift to the industry, having documented all his experience in the sector, making the reading a backbone of success for the industry.

For the NCC Global Podcast, Pantami also described it as ‘‘a creativity and innovative idea that will support the federal government of Nigeria through NCC reach out to our citizens and legal residents about what government is doing in the sector, saying that one of the major challenges of being confronted by NCC is the issue of poor perception.

‘‘So, this podcast I believe will provide the awareness that is required our citizens to know that whenever they need intervention, these are the procedures to follow without compromising the economic progress of our sector. The Commission through the Podcast will be able on behalf of the federal government will be able to clarify the people on what they need to do.’’

Pantami, who attributed poor quality of service in the country to the power outage and vandalization of telecom facilities, said that the telecom sector operators require about 33,000 generators every day to run their base stations.
He, however, assured that the President has started to address the challenges of power supply and expressed hope that by 2023 a lot will be achieved to improve quality of service (QoS) across the country.
In his address, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta said the new strategic plan was conceived out of the need to re-invigorate the Commission and take it to the greater heights.
Danbatta said the Commission took into consideration the several notable advancements in the Nigerian telecommunication industry within the last five years as well as the current global realities in designing the plan.
The new plan the EVC said had been guided and aligned to the ERGP of the Federal government.
He said the establishment of the NCC Podcast is in line with its strategic initiatives to boost the corporate image and visibility of the Commission via the adoption of innovative channels of communication by developing audio and content content to reach out to its publics.

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