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Apprais­ing the Unas­sail­able Achieve­ments of the NCC Under Prof. Umar Gar­ba Dan­bat­ta

Umar Gar­ba Dan­bat­ta

It’s a fact, that right from the estab­lish­ment of the Niger­ian Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Com­mis­sion the body has nev­er lacked vision nor run short of strat­e­gy to prop­er­ly super­in­tend the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion indus­try. This has, in turn, earned the NCC a rep­u­ta­tion as a fore­most Tele­com reg­u­la­to­ry agency in Africa.

The Com­mis­sion is util­is­ing ICT for a dif­fer­ent aspect of nation­al devel­op­ment ini­ti­at­ing sev­er­al pro­grammes such as State Accel­er­at­ed Broad­band Ini­tia­tive (SABI) and Wire Nige­ria Project (WIN) to help stim­u­late demand and accel­er­ate the uptake of ICT tools and ser­vices nec­es­sary for the enthrone­ment of a knowl­edge­able soci­ety.

In order to achieve its man­date, the Com­mis­sion has put in place the nec­es­sary licens­ing and the reg­u­la­to­ry frame­work for the sup­ply of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions ser­vices, this is in spite of the myr­i­ad of chal­lenges striv­ing hard to pull spoil the good work The com­mis­sion is record­ing. Thus, it can be tak­en for grant­ed that the Com­mis­sion as spear­head­ed by the acclaimed Pro­fes­sor of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, Umar Gar­ba Dan­bat­ta will sur­mount all its chal­lenges and take the indus­try to its Eldo­ra­do.

Time and space would not per­mit the enu­mer­a­tion of the unas­sail­able achieve­ments of the Niger­ian Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Com­mis­sion under the able lead­er­ship of Prof. Umar Gar­ba Dan­bat­ta but time and space would sure­ly allow room for the impact the Dan­bat­ta and NCC by exten­sion is mak­ing by way of car­ry­ing the con­sumers along, the won­ders done through broad­band pen­e­tra­tion and a host of oth­er achieve­ments.

Car­ry­ing the con­sumers along

From the day he assumed office to the issues he choos­es to pay atten­tion to and the kind of work he gets done on a typ­i­cal day at work one thing is clear, the great­est desire of Prof. Umar Gar­ba Dan­bat­ta is to make sure that the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence of the aver­age Niger­ian is bet­ter than it has been before. To him and by exten­sion the NCC the con­sumer is one of the key stake­hold­ers in the stake­hold­er lad­der of the NCC with a base of over 154 mil­lion sub­scribers. That is not to men­tion the fact that, the Niger­ian sub­scribers dom­i­nate the African telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion land­scape, pro­vide the rev­enue that Tele­coms need to keep going while increas­ing the over­all rev­enue earn­ing of every­one includ­ing the coun­try.

One of the man­dates of the NCC is to mon­i­tor the qual­i­ty of ser­vice pro­vid­ed by telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­nies and ensure they con­form to accept­able stan­dards. Among oth­er things, the Com­mis­sion is very pas­sion­ate about car­ing for the wel­fare of the con­sumer hence it is will­ing to go the whole hug to ensure the con­sumer gets val­ue for mon­ey.

As an astute admin­is­tra­tor and pro­fes­sion­al, Prof. Umar Gar­ba Dan­bat­ta is well aware of the fact that it is the cus­tomers that have made all the suc­cess sto­ries the Com­mis­sion delight­ful­ly tell the world. Thus one of the areas the Com­mis­sion has record­ed giant strides is by car­ry­ing the con­sumers along.

In his bid to place the Com­mis­sion on a sound foot­ing and ensur­ing he car­ried the con­sumers along, Prof. Umar Gar­ba Dan­bat­ta, the Exec­u­tive Vice Chair­man  wast­ed no time On assump­tion of office in unveil­ing his strate­gic vision for years 2015 – 2020 in an 8‑point agen­da designed to pro­mote inno­va­tion, invest­ment, com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer empow­er­ment.

In a speech he deliv­ered at the 77th Edi­tion of Tele­com Con­sumer Par­lia­ment Dan­bat­ta detailed what the agen­da entails this way:

These 8‑point pil­lars rest on a tri­pod of “As”, which include Avail­abil­i­ty of Ser­vice, Acces­si­bil­i­ty of Ser­vice and Afford­abil­i­ty of ser­vice. As can be deduced, the agen­da is sole­ly direct­ed at ensur­ing that the Con­sumer is opti­mal­ly sat­is­fied with the ser­vices being pro­vid­ed. Three of the eight points are specif­i­cal­ly focused on the Con­sumer, viz:

To improve qual­i­ty of ser­vice (QoS) by pro­mot­ing the avail­abil­i­ty of reli­able, inter­op­er­a­ble, rapid­ly restor­able crit­i­cal infor­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­o­gy infra­struc­ture that is sup­port­ive of all required ser­vices;

To facil­i­tate strate­gic col­lab­o­ra­tion and part­ner­ship with rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers that will fos­ter ICT for sus­tain­able eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment and social advance­ment;

To pro­tect and empow­er Con­sumers from unfair prac­tices through the avail­abil­i­ty of infor­ma­tion and edu­ca­tion required to make informed choic­es in the use of ICT ser­vices.

The remain­ing agen­da items, viz, (4) Facil­i­tate broad­band pen­e­tra­tion, (5) Opti­mize usage and ben­e­fits of spec­trum, (6) Pro­mote ICT inno­va­tion and invest­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties, (7) Pro­mote fair com­pe­ti­tion and inclu­sive growth and (8) Ensure reg­u­la­to­ry excel­lence and oper­a­tional effi­cien­cy, are all designed for the ulti­mate ben­e­fit of the Con­sumer.”

As a tes­ta­ment to car­ry­ing the con­sumer along, the Com­mis­sion also heard the com­plaints of con­sumers and respond­ed by issu­ing direc­tives to all Mobile Net­work Oper­a­tors man­dat­ing them to ded­i­cate a short­code, 2442, on their net­works for use by sub­scribers to opt-in to “Do-Not-Dis­turb” data­base to reg­is­ter their num­bers against unso­licit­ed mes­sages. This direc­tive has since tak­en effect and con­sumers are now bet­ter for it.

The need to car­ry the con­sumer along also brought about a man­age­ment deci­sion that com­pelled the Com­mis­sion to ampli­fy its activ­i­ties towards ensur­ing that the con­sumer enjoys a cus­tomer expe­ri­ence that is enhanced and con­sis­tent in time and qual­i­ty.

To ensure con­sumers are not tak­en for grant­ed the NCC has invest­ed heav­i­ly in inform­ing and edu­cat­ing the con­sumer with the sole inter­est of pro­tect­ing and empow­er­ing them to make the right deci­sions.


The Com­mis­sion has since been in the busi­ness of pro­vid­ing unique and time­ly infor­ma­tion to empow­er the con­sumer; engag­ing stake­hold­ers in a con­struc­tive way to ensure that they work with NCC; ensur­ing the qual­i­ty of ser­vice across board; increas­ing the lev­el of aware­ness and acti­va­tion of the 2442 Do Not Dis­turb Ser­vice and edu­cat­ing the con­sumer about the envi­ron­men­tal and health impact of tele­com infra­struc­ture and type of funds approved for use.

The need to car­ry the con­sumer along led to the intro­duc­tion of the 2017 year of the con­sumer with the intro­duc­tion of inno­v­a­tive solu­tions, the 2442 Do Not Dis­turb Ser­vice, the 6222 toll-free com­plaint line, the qual­i­ty of ser­vice across board all designed to put the con­sumer in charge.

Broad­band pen­e­tra­tion

Giv­en the impor­tance the Niger­ian Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion attached to car­ry­ing tele­coms Con­sumers along. It has suf­fi­cient­ly put in place sev­er­al oth­er mea­sures that will ensure that Ser­vice Providers meet the needs of the pub­lic. From the actions and inac­tions of Prof. Umar Gar­ba Dan­bat­ta stake­hold­ers in the indus­try are aware of his tire­less efforts at putting in place var­i­ous strate­gies and poli­cies that would enable the Niger­ian Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion to make oper­a­tors toe the line of accept­able prac­tices as obtain­able any­where in the world.

The Nation­al Broad­band Plan (2013–2018) had envis­aged 30 per cent broad­band pen­e­tra­tion by Decem­ber 2018. It was measly at 8 per cent in 2015. But luck was on the side of Nige­ria and Nige­ri­ans when Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari by a stroke of luck picked Prof. Umar Gar­ba Dan­bat­ta for the job.

Accord­ing to doc­u­ments released by the Niger­ian Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Com­mis­sion detail­ing how the Com­mis­sion achieved and sur­passed the broad­band pen­e­tra­tion tar­get it set for itself, the report stat­ed that in Novem­ber 2018, there were 168,729,005 mobile “GSM” mobile sub­scribers in the coun­try, of which 108,457,051 were sub­scribed to Inter­net access ser­vices pro­vid­ed by the major oper­a­tors. In terms of broad­band ser­vices, a total of 58,965,478 con­nect­ed to the Inter­net through 3G and 4G net­works (includ­ing those pro­vid­ed by the LTE-only ser­vice providers such as Smile and nTel).

NCC dis­closed that this dis­tinc­tion was crit­i­cal because Nige­ri­ans pre­dom­i­nant­ly rely on mobile net­works for Inter­net access, includ­ing broad­band net­works since the fixed broad­band access, which would have been led by NITEL, is now non-exis­tent. It fur­ther explained that broad­band pen­e­tra­tion is typ­i­cal­ly mea­sured by the per­cent­age of the total pop­u­la­tion with access to broad­band net­works out of every hun­dred.

So if the total active broad­band sub­scrip­tion fig­ure of 58,965,478 is divid­ed by a pop­u­la­tion of 190,886,311 (using Unit­ed Nations (UN’s) pro­jec­tion of Decem­ber 2017), that comes to 30.9 per cent pen­e­tra­tion. Although issues could be raised about using the UN fig­ure as base­line, the Com­mis­sion resort to the use of this fig­ure because is the most con­sis­tent and reli­able since that appears to be the base­line used by the Inter­na­tion­al Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Union (ITU) in ear­li­er stud­ies.

NCC explained that if it had used the Niger­ian Pop­u­la­tion Com­mis­sion (NPC)’s 2006 fig­ure of 140 mil­lion, the pen­e­tra­tion rate would have been 42.1 per cent, which would have been unre­al­is­tic and dis­put­ed. Thus its asser­tion that Nige­ria attained 30.9 per cent broad­band pen­e­tra­tion is log­i­cal and sup­port­ed by avail­able data which are avail­able for ver­i­fi­ca­tion.

Address­ing naysay­ers who believe the NCC was only coo­ing up fig­ures the Prof cleared the air this way:

We have achieved and sur­passed the tar­get to 30.9% and this fact is based on com­pu­ta­tion con­duct­ed in-house, by the Depart­ment of Pol­i­cy and Eco­nom­ic Analy­sis.

It is a com­pu­ta­tion that is avail­able for any­body with access to data. So, what we did was, that we sum­moned up the 3G sub­scrip­tion for Broad­band, as well as the 4G sub­scrip­tion and divid­ed it by the pop­u­la­tion fig­ure of this coun­try. This time around we didn’t use the 2006 pop­u­la­tion fig­ures because we want­ed what­ev­er we com­pute total­ly with the ITU, UNESCO Broad­band Com­mis­sion for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment is doing or has been doing when it comes to broad­band pen­e­tra­tion.

“That is why, when we use the cur­rent fig­ure of 190 mil­lion plus, which is a fig­ure also endorsed by the Nation­al Pop­u­la­tion Com­mis­sion, we feel the tar­get we obtained through this com­pu­ta­tion is a reflec­tion of the lev­el of Broad­band Pen­e­tra­tion in the coun­try.

That was how we came up with that 30.9%, so we have exceed­ed the tar­get, as stip­u­lat­ed in the Nation­al Broad­band Plan, by 0.9%. it is no small achieve­ment for us. Because then, we can all pre­pare very well as we have pre­pared before to meet the next tar­get, which is yet to be set. But we can real­is­ti­cal­ly look at it at the lev­el of Exec­u­tive Man­age­ment and we can agree on what our tar­get will be and make our rec­om­men­da­tion to our super­vis­ing min­istry.

But I have a feel­ing that achiev­ing 50% in the next 5 years won’t be a tall order; this, of course, will be sub­ject to delib­er­a­tion amongst Man­age­ment of the Min­istry and the Com­mit­tee that is review­ing the Nation­al Broad­band Plan. So, a new tar­get for broad­band pen­e­tra­tion will be up for review by the com­mit­tee for the Nation­al Broad­band Plan.

What this means is that in terms pop­u­la­tion and fig­ure, close to 60 mil­lion Nige­ri­ans have access to high-speed inter­net. There is the need to define what we mean by speed inter­net as pro­vid­ed in the Nation­al Broad­band Plan, which is a speed of 1.5mbps (megabits per sec­ond), that should be achiev­able every­where in the coun­try. And it speaks of the per­va­sive­ness of the broad­band ser­vices in Lagos, Port Har­court and all over the coun­try.”

Oth­ers achieve­ments

Undoubt­ed­ly, there is more to the mag­ic wand waved by Dan­bat­ta with regards to the attain­ment of the broad­band pen­e­tra­tion tar­get. He has equal­ly record­ed unprece­dent­ed feat of effi­cient man­age­ment of cap­i­tal and human resource. The fol­low­ing are some of the achieve­ments time and space would allow:

         Re-plan­ning of the 800 MHz band for LTE and assign­ing of 2x10 MHz Spec­trum to Glo­mo­bile for tri­al in the 700 MHz and reg­u­lar­iza­tion of 2x10 MHz Spec­trum in the 700 MHz band pre­vi­ous­ly assigned to MTN by NBC for the pur­pose of pro­vid­ing LTE ser­vices, to open­ing up 70/80 GHz band for both last mile and back­haul ser­vices, among oth­er numer­ous spec­trum man­age­ments.

         Auc­tion of six slots of 2x5MHz in the 2.6 GHz Band, to re-plan­ning of the 800 MHz band for LTE, and to   assign­ing of 2x10 MHz Spec­trum to Glo­mo­bile for tri­al in the 700 MHz

         Reg­u­lar­iza­tion of 2x10 MHz Spec­trum in the 700 MHz band pre­vi­ous­ly assigned to MTN by NBC for the pur­pose of pro­vid­ing LTE ser­vices, to open­ing up 70/80 GHz band for both last mile and back­haul ser­vices, among oth­er numer­ous spec­trum man­age­ment, the impacts can­not be gain­said.

         Pub­li­ca­tion of Spec­trum Trad­ing Guide­lines

         Licens­ing of 6 infra­struc­ture com­pa­nies (Infra­cos) to dri­ve the deploy­ment of infra­struc­ture across the nation’s geo­graph­i­cal zones and Lagos—while the remain­ing one is being processed

         Ded­i­ca­tion of the year 2017 as the Year of the Con­sumer of the indus­try with all its atten­dant ben­e­fits

         Check­ing the men­ace of unso­licit­ed tele­mar­ket­ing vie the intro­duc­tion of the Do-Not-Dis­turb-code with no few­er than 16.5 mil­lion join­ing the plat­form

         Issuance of a direc­tive to ser­vice providers on Data Roll-Over, enabling con­sumers to roll over unused data for a peri­od of time, rang­ing from 1 day to 7 days, depend­ing on the data plan, among oth­er con­sumer- cen­tric direc­tives.

         Rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing stake­hold­er engage­ment that led to the unseal­ing of 47 base sta­tions by Gov­er­nor Ibikun­le Amo­sun of Ogun State, Kano State where over 200 mil­lion was waived on levies and Kogi State where 120 base sta­tion sites were reopened

         Strate­gic col­lab­o­ra­tion and Mem­o­ran­dum of Under­stand­ing (MoU) signed by Dan­bat­ta and Gov­er­nor of Cen­tral Bank of Nige­ria, Mr God­win Eme­fiele, with a view to boost­ing mobile mon­ey ser­vice pen­e­tra­tion and deep­en finan­cial inclu­sion in the coun­try to 80% by 2020.

         Sav­ing a major ser­vice provider, 9mobile, from immi­nent col­lapse thus sav­ing thou­sands of jobs

         Manda­to­ry adher­ence to the Com­mis­sion’s Code of Cor­po­rate Gov­er­nance for the tele­coms indus­try

There is no gain­say­ing that under the year in review, Prof. Umar Gar­ba Dan­bat­ta, the Com­mis­sion has demon­strat­ed a high sense of patri­o­tism and pro­fes­sion­al­ism in the dis­charge of his duties and respon­si­bil­i­ties as spelt out for him as the Exec­u­tive Vice Chair­man of the Niger­ian Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Com­mis­sion, the fore­most Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion reg­u­la­to­ry agency in Africa. Dan­bat­ta has act­ed respon­si­bly, impar­tial­ly, trans­par­ent­ly and inde­pen­dent­ly in the dis­charge of its statu­to­ry func­tions. He has engen­dered an infor­ma­tion-rich envi­ron­ment thanks to broad­band pen­e­tra­tion made pos­si­ble by his tire­less effort.

Every­one who has one or two deal­ings with him will attest to this fact, that he acts with integri­ty, excel­lence, respon­sive­ness and above all with a spe­cial kind of inno­v­a­tive­ness that has seen the coun­try’s gross domes­tic prod­uct surg­ing to greater heights.


One of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary moves tak­en by Prof. Umar Gar­ba Dan­bat­ta and his team was the unveil­ing of the 8‑Point Agen­da. This frame­work was designed to effec­tive­ly con­front any chal­lenge that was mil­i­tat­ing against the Commission’s vis­i­ble con­tri­bu­tion to active­ly facil­i­tate the devel­op­ment of a knowl­edge-dri­ven, inclu­sive, glob­al­ly com­pet­i­tive and pros­per­ous Nige­ria.

  1. Facil­i­tate Broad­band Pen­e­tra­tion

Vision: Pro­vide and opti­mize access to and use of afford­able fixed and mobile broad­band every­where in Nige­ria.

Strat­e­gy: Facil­i­tate and sup­port avail­abil­i­ty of broad­band ser­vices by pro­mot­ing deploy­ment of uni­ver­sal­ly avail­able, fast and reli­able net­work infra­struc­ture that will stim­u­late seam­less broad­band pen­e­tra­tion to dri­ve tech­nol­o­gy inno­va­tions and over­all pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of the econ­o­my.

  1. Improve Qual­i­ty of Ser­vice

Vision: Pro­mote the avail­abil­i­ty of reli­able, inter­op­er­a­ble, rapid­ly restor­able crit­i­cal infor­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­o­gy infra­struc­ture that are sup­port­ive of all required ser­vices.

Strat­e­gy: Strength­en mea­sures for Qual­i­ty of Ser­vice (QoS) reg­u­la­tion, through improved oversight/internal con­trols and facil­i­ta­tion of active infra­struc­ture shar­ing amongst tele­coms oper­a­tors in ways that will encour­age seam­less adop­tion of next gen­er­a­tion tech­nolo­gies and remove all bar­ri­ers to smooth oper­a­tions.

  1. Opti­mize Usage and Ben­e­fits of Spec­trum

Vision: Max­i­mize the avail­abil­i­ty of spec­trum in order to pro­vide diverse and afford­able ICT ser­vices and ensure spec­trum acqui­si­tion does not dis­tort mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion.

Strat­e­gy: Devel­op and imple­ment flex­i­ble, mar­ket-ori­ent­ed spec­trum reg­u­la­tion poli­cies that pro­mote high­ly effi­cient use of spec­trum in ways that stim­u­late inno­va­tion, invest­ment, and job cre­ation and increased con­sumer ben­e­fits.

  1. Pro­mote ICT Inno­va­tion and Invest­ment Oppor­tu­ni­ties

Vision: Pro­mote ICT inno­va­tion in ways that improve the nation’s abil­i­ty to com­pete in the glob­al econ­o­my, through increased invest­ment in youth and pro­mo­tion of SMEs for the deliv­ery of new busi­ness break­through.

Strat­e­gy: Facil­i­tate and sup­port the deploy­ment and use of broad­band net­works as a plat­form for eco­nom­ic growth, inno­va­tion, job-cre­ation, and glob­al com­pet­i­tive­ness by fos­ter­ing increased strate­gic sup­port for tech­nol­o­gy star­tups and SMEs.

  1. Facil­i­tate Strate­gic Col­lab­o­ra­tion and Part­ner­ship

Vision: Devel­op effec­tive part­ner­ship with rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers to fos­ter ICT for sus­tain­able eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment and social advance­ment.

Strat­e­gy: Fos­ter avenue for syn­er­gy with gov­ern­ment MDAs, Com­mu­ni­ties and rel­e­vant local and inter­na­tion­al non-state actors to advance the use of ICT for Devel­op­ment (ICT4Dev) by facil­i­tat­ing and sup­port­ing the devel­op­ment, adop­tion and usage of tech­nol­o­gy inno­va­tions for improve­ment in Agri­cul­ture, Health­care, Edu­ca­tion and Secu­ri­ty.

  1. Pro­tect and Empow­er Con­sumers

Vision: Pro­tect con­sumers from unfair prac­tices through avail­abil­i­ty of infor­ma­tion and edu­ca­tion required to make informed choic­es in the use of ICT ser­vices.

Strat­e­gy: Strength­en ini­tia­tives to edu­cate and inform con­sumers in their use of com­mu­ni­ca­tions ser­vices and act swift­ly and con­sis­tent­ly when­ev­er nec­es­sary in the use of enforce­ment to pro­tect tele­com ser­vices con­sumers’ rights and priv­i­leges.

  1. Pro­mote Fair Com­pe­ti­tion and Inclu­sive growth

Vision: Ensure a com­pet­i­tive mar­ket for com­mu­ni­ca­tions ser­vices that fos­ters fair inclu­sion of all actors, in inno­v­a­tive ways that facil­i­tate new invest­ment, job cre­ation and con­sumer sat­is­fac­tion.

Strat­e­gy: Fos­ter the assur­ance of fair com­pe­ti­tion through reg­u­la­tions that ensure strict com­pli­ance to oblig­a­tions imposed on dom­i­nant oper­a­tors in ways that stim­u­late the growth and sus­tain­abil­i­ty of small­er play­ers in the Main­stream, Val­ue Added Ser­vices and Ancil­lary ser­vices sec­tors of the tele­com ser­vice pro­vi­sion ecosys­tem.

  1. Ensure Reg­u­la­to­ry Excel­lence and Oper­a­tional Effi­cien­cy

Vision: Ensure an effec­tive reg­u­la­to­ry frame­work, effi­cient process­es, strict com­pli­ance mon­i­tor­ing and enforce­ment, effi­cient man­age­ment of inter­nal resources and struc­ture, and main­tain a com­mit­ment to trans­paren­cy.

Strat­e­gy: Strength­en reg­u­la­to­ry and oper­a­tional sys­tems and process­es in ways that make them more result-ori­ent­ed by fur­ther inter­nal­iz­ing the Commission’s rules, cul­ture and val­ues, and inte­grat­ing tech­nol­o­gy where nec­es­sary to improve effi­cien­cy, effec­tive­ness and stake­hold­er sat­is­fac­tion.

For the Nige­ria Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Com­mis­sion as spear­head­ed by Prof. Umar Gar­ba Dan­bat­ta, the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions indus­try is piv­otal to the over­all devel­op­ment of Nige­ria and this is in tan­dem with the change agen­da of Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari Admin­is­tra­tion.

By: Collins Imoudu Andrew

Murya Mag­a­zine

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