Atiku: driving the telecommunications revolution in Nigeria


When Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999, the world’s most populous black nation grew at an annual national population growth rate of 2.58 percent, according to UN-Habitat. With a population of 119,695,565, Nigeria was a nation waiting for its many challenges to be met. Then comes the hour, comes the man!

President Olusegun Obasanjo rode into the saddle to address the pressing social issues plaguing the nation at the time, which the government needed to address in order to give the new administration much-needed direction and direction during of its first four years of democratic rule.

Some of these issues had reached a crisis stage, given their negative impact on the unfortunate Nigerians. Across the country, doubt was palpable about the government’s ability to confront head-on the malaise that had slowly but surely crept into the nation’s body politic.

There was a sense in which successive military governments seemed to have abandoned any serious effort to maintain the spirit of hope, which President Obasanjo spoke of and sparked with such lucidity and philosophy at the start of his administration.

More specifically, the new administration has been concerned with the safety of people and property, the state of infrastructure, the cost of administration, governance, education, public services, health, conflict management, transport and sports. Certainly, while some of these issues have required the attention of all three levels of government – ​​federal, state and local – most are fundamentally and constitutionally within the jurisdiction of the federal government.

The story of the growth of telecommunications in the country was no different from the situation in other sectors of the economy. Nigeria’s telecommunications industry has been compared to the worst in the world; people who weren’t lucky and wealthy enough to own a desk phone (and there were less than 350,000 for the country’s huge population), would line up at NITEL offices across the country to get through or receive international calls. We’ve lived with that and lived with so many governments that didn’t know what to do with the industry and really held people to Stone Age practices. Then came Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who was then Nigeria’s vice president and head of the country’s economic management team.
As Vice President and Head of the Economics Team which included some of the best minds Nigeria has to offer the world, Atiku showed that it was possible to take the industry to the next level of growth. Under his leadership, the nation witnessed first hand the fruits of modern telecommunications technology and its transformative capacity in the life of a nation.

As with all good deeds, Atiku’s leadership role in the country’s telecommunications sector has not gone unnoticed. On July 7, 2022, a veteran journalist, Aaron Ukodie, unearthed a piece of telecommunications history and polished it into the nation’s telecommunications charts, to serve as a reminder or even a reference for generations to come.

In his book, Nigeria Drivers of Digital Prosperity, Ukodie hailed the tenacious spirit and selfless commitment of Atiku Abubakar who made possible the rollout of the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) in Nigeria.

Validating the claims made in the book, Atiku, who was represented at the book presentation by lawyer Uyi Giwa-Osagie, said that the evolution of the country’s ICT and telecommunications industry started with GSM. which was launched in August 2001 under his (Atiku’s) supervision, and has since revolutionized the face of ICT in Nigeria.

Atiku said, “In February 2002, I inaugurated a 22-member Telecommunications Sector Reform Implementation Committee, aimed at increasing access to telephone services for Nigerians, primarily through GSM, and further facilitate all necessary licenses for GSM to come into force in Nigeria. It’s an accomplishment I’m completely proud of and one that further solidifies my credentials as a digitally-minded leader, aware of the revolutions that need to take place for our country to move forward and reach its full potential.

Speaking at the event, Atiku gave a preview of the shape of things to come. He enthused: “As a leader, I have seen firsthand the significant impact that digital technology is creating across different sectors of our economy, and the endless opportunities that remain untapped. On this continued journey, I feel a responsibility to continue to support Nigeria and the youth of Nigeria, in its digitization agenda, and this is an integral part of my campaign promise and delivery to the nation, in my quest to be the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, come May 29, 2023.”

There is no denying that background is important. They provide the initiator of a process with a clear understanding of what needs to be done to consolidate the foundations already laid. To emphasize, Atiku’s key role in the development of the country’s telecommunications sector has left landmark achievements that are hard to ignore. Working with the best minds in the industry, led by Ernest Ndukwe whose appointment Atiku facilitated as Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the reforms saw the opening up of the industry through the establishment of the National Communications Commission (NCC) – which was established to oversee the telecommunications sector and regulate the operation of general mobile service (GSM) operators.

GSM operators licensed by NCC include Airtel, MTN, Glo, 9mobile as major service providers alongside other service providers such as Vodafone, spectranet, itel which are the go-to platforms for internet service. Reforms in the telecommunications sector have had a concomitant positive impact on job and wealth creation. Over the past two decades, the sector has provided millions of jobs to many young people and the share of the Nigerian telecommunications sector in total GDP has stabilized over the years, as evidenced by the National Bureau report statistics (NBS).

In the first quarter (Q1) of 2017, the telecommunications sector contributed N1.452 trillion to GDP or 9.16% indicating growth in the sector. There has also been an increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) – as most GSM providers are foreign investors who have brought in their funds to invest in the telecommunications sector. This dynamic will help to increase the country’s FDI with its advantage on the inflow of foreign currencies and its positive impact on the value of the Nigerian currency (naira). According to statistics, the flow of capital (foreign direct investment) into the Nigerian telecommunications industry in 2021 was around $417 billion, compared to $942 million in 2019.
That’s not all. The sector has had an impact on the country’s revenue generation through the payment of taxes. According to the Nigerian Communications Commission, the combined revenues of GSM, landline and internet service provider operators was N3.21 billion in 2021. This means the government is implementing levies of N160.46 billion. on its 5% excise duty on telecommunications services. .
Not to be missed is the creation of payment service banks (PSBs) using major GSM providers to stimulate the development of SMEs and help the economy grow. It is in continuation of this initiative that the Central Bank of Nigeria recently licensed 5 PSBs to operate as Mobile Banks to deepen the provision of financial services in the country and help drive the growth of SMEs. This would not have been possible without the opening of GSM brought about by the reform of the telecommunications sector.

Other benefits of reforming the telecommunications sector are that the basic national data required for the country is made possible, as the GSM operators register and capture all users which the federal government can use as basic data for integration with other databases to establish national databases. database.

Finally, the reform of the sector has made it easier for the people of Nigeria to engage in business through various channels, such as conducting business via mobile phones from anywhere in the world, using telephone data services to conveniently advertise and sell products. In one sentence, it had a positive impact on the ease of doing business.

All told, it’s easy to see why the emergence of Atiku as Nigeria’s next president will ONLY stop the brain drain from Nigeria, but will also ensure that Nigerians face all sorts of risks – racial violence, unemployment and dehumanization abroad, all in the name of finding greener pastures to return home to help build their own country. It’s an achievable task, because according to John C. Maxwell, “everything goes up and down on leadership.”

Shaibu is Atiku Abubakar’s Special Assistant for Public Communication

Opinions expressed by contributors are strictly personal and do not belong to TheCable.

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