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Reps probe telecoms service delivery

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By Abraham Adekunle

Speaker says NCC must proactively ensure operators offer efficient services.

Telecommunications services in Nigeria has come a long way. From queuing up to make a call to the influx of radio-like antenna-device telephones, mobile network coverage in the country has not only become fast but also much cheaper. However, the issue of network penetration and coverage is still battling the country. Residents of the metropolis, such as in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and other major cities, may not feel the impact of this because they live at the heart of commercial activities.

Frequent travelers know not to rely on their network, especially in transit and when they travel to a remote area. This is now a concern for the House of Representatives in Nigeria. The legislative chamber began an inquiry into the state of telecommunications service delivery in Nigeria on May 9, 2023. Speaking at the first public hearing on the matter organized by the House Ad hoc Committee, the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the house was concerned that some areas in the country have no access to mobile services.

Mobile coverage hits 92.3% of Nigeria’s landmass.

MTN Nigeria announced in April 2023 that mobile telephony coverage has reached 92.3 percent of the entire landmass of Nigeria. This is largely on the second generation (2G) network, which has been championed by the company. MTN’s investment in infrastructure is put at over N3.9 trillion. Specifically, the telecommunications firm said it has 2G population coverage of 92.3 percent, followed by 3G reach of 83.6 percent and 4G coverage of 79.1 percent. As of February 2023, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said Nigeria’s telephone density is 119 percent and operators have connected 325 million lines, 227 million of which are active.

Gbajabiamila said the House Committee is investigating why the NCC failed to promote widespread availability and usage of mobile services nationwide. The committee is also investigating the total accruals into the Universal Service Provision Fund as well as its expenditures since inception. Although Nigeria’s telecommunications sector is one of the largest in Africa and it contributes immensely to the economy and lives of millions of Nigerians, most rural communities have no access to it.

There is consideration for rural dwellers in the country.

Gbajabiamila noted that telecoms infrastructure is concentrated in urban areas. “It is critical to note that it is not only people residing in urban areas that have the right to telecommunications.” He said that consideration should be extended to rural dwellers. The NCC, as the regulator, also needs to ensure proactiveness in ensuring qualitative and efficient services are offered by the telecommunication operators. They have become necessary and vital to Nigeria’s economic development because they provide the infrastructural backbone for the digital economy that drives development.

Earlier, the chairman of the committee, Rep. Bamidele Salam (PDP-Osun), said that the hearing was to investigate why mobile telecommunications coverage was not as widespread as envisaged by the NCC Act. The mandate of the NCC is established in the NCC Act 2003, which was signed into law by former president Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. One of the objectives of the agency is to promote the provision of modern, universal, efficient, reliable, affordable and easily accessible communications services and the widest range thereof throughout Nigeria.

Parliament interested in how regulators would bridge access gap.

In addition to the parliament’s interest in the steps taken so far by the regulators to bridge the access gap, especially in underserved and unserved areas, the chairman said that the committee will also probe the total accruals into the Universal Service Provision Fund as well as its expenditures since inception. By house resolution, major stakeholders in this industry have been contacted and invited to come and make presentations in the hearing. The member of the legislative chamber hoped that the main purpose of the committee is achieved after the set three days.

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