Reps Invite Telecom Companies Over Poor Network Coverage

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The House of Representatives has invited regulators and operators in the telecommunication sector over poor coverage and spread of their services in Nigeria.

The invitees, including the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, Nigerian Communications Commission, MTN Nigeria, Airtel Nigeria, Globacom and 9Mobile, are to be grilled at an investigative hearing between April 8 and 10, 2023.

The invitation is by the House ad hoc committee on the Need to Investigate Failure/Inability of the Nigerian Communications Commission to Promote Widespread Availability and Usage of Mobile Telecommunication Network Services throughout Nigeria As Well As Accruals/Utilisation of Funds in the Universal Service Provision Fund.

According to a notice issued by the ad hoc committee, others to appear before the panel are the Governing Board of the USPF, Accountant General of the Federation, Auditor General for the Federation, Federal Inland Revenue Service, telecommunication equipment vendors in Nigeria and civil society organisations.

Chairman of the committee, Bamidele Salam, in the notice sent to The PUNCH, noted that the invitation and call for memoranda from the relevant stakeholders was based on an earlier resolution by the House.

Salam said the resolutions were on the “need to investigate the non-provision of mobile telecommunication network services to the under-served and unserved areas of Nigeria by the NCC despite the availability of the USPF, which was created for this purpose.”

The chairman added that the committee would also investigate the “total accruals into and utilisation of the USPF by the NCC since inception of the fund.”

The House had on April 6, 2023, resolved to investigate the NCC over how it had utilised the USPF, an allocation of 2.5 per cent of the annual turnover of the mobile telecommunication network operators as annual license renewal fee.

The House had specifically resolved to set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the matter and report back within four weeks for further legislative action.

Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, had set up a panel to carry out the probe, which is made up of Messrs Bamidele Salam (Chairman), Jide Jimoh, Unyime Idem, Aisha Dukku, Sani Bala, Babajide Obanikoro, Abubakar Fulata and Chinedu Ogah, as well as sponsor of the motion, Sergius Ogun.

The resolution was based on a motion of urgent public importance was titled, ‘Need to Investigate the Non-Provision of Mobile Telecommunication Network Services to the Underserved and Unserved Areas of Nigeria by the Nigerian Communications Commission Despite the Availability of Universal Service Provision Fund.’

A member of the House, Sergius Ogun, while moving the motion, noted that under Section 4 of the NCC Act, Cap N97, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, the Commission is saddled with the responsibility of facilitating investments in and entry into the Nigerian market for provision and supply of communication services, equipment and facilities.

The lawmaker added that Section 112 (1) of the Act gives the NCC the power to consider, design and determine a system which shall promote the widespread availability and usage of network services throughout Nigeria by encouraging the installation of network facilities and the provision of network services to institutions in the un-served and underserved areas of the country, known as the Universal Service Provision.

He stressed that a community reading of the provisions of Sections 114 and 118 of the Act showed that the structure, governance, administration and control of the Universal Service Provision Fund shall be as determined or domiciled in the NCC.

Ogun had said, “The House is aware that in the wake of the rapid expansions of the Global System of Mobile Communication in Nigeria, most of the mobile telecommunication network operators were reluctant to move to the rural areas owing to the business considerations.

“The House is also aware that the Act empowers the NCC to receive 2.5 per cent of the annual turnover of the mobile telecommunication network operators as annual license renewal fee.

“The NCC is expected to utilise the funds generated from the contributions of mobile telecommunication network operators, for implementing Universal Access Strategy and Programme in accordance with Federal Government’s policy thereon (as enshrined in Section 4 of the Act).”

Another member of the House, Mark Gbillah, in amending the motion, prayed the House to add an investigation of the accruals into and utilisation of the USPF by the NCC since the inception of the fund.”

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