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NCC Did Not Move 5G Deadline After Only MTN Submitted Bid

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As Commission Maintain Principles Guided By Fairness, Firmness, And Forthrightness

…As Commission Maintain Principles Guided By Fairness, Firmness, And Forthrightness

Olushola Okunlade Writes

The attention of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has been drawn to the front-page headline of the BusinessDay newspaper of Thursday, December 2, 2021, with the title, “How NCC moved 5G deadline after only MTN submitted bid.”

The publication alleged that “the Commission was forced to move the November 24 deadline for the submission of the bid and payment of the ten percent fee of $20 million after it emerged that only MTN Nigeria had complied with the requirement.”

It is pertinent to state that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) maintains an unimpeachable record and reputation based on precedents of open and transparent spectrum auctions over the years, which had earned it both local and international recognition.

For proper guidance of our stakeholders and the general public, it should be recalled that as part of the regulatory processes leading to the auction of the 3.5GHz spectrum, the Commission had carried out the following activities: October 7, 2021, the Commission exposed the Draft Information Memorandum (IM) on the auction of the 5G spectrum on its website (www.ncc.gov.ng) and issued a public notice in major media channels, including print, electronic and broadcast media. Comments on the draft IM were received by the Commission up until October 28, 2021. 

On November 3, 2021, the Commission held a stakeholders’ engagement forum in Lagos at which comments received from a broad segment of stakeholders, including the major operators were exhaustively discussed and considered. 

On November 10, 2021, the Commission published the Final IM, and Stakeholders’ comments thereon, on its website and national dailies, and set the deadline for the submission of bids on Wednesday, November 24, 2021. 

On November 23, 2021, just a day before the deadline for the submission of bids, Air Traffic Controllers went on strike, disrupting flights operations in Lagos. 

As a responsive regulator, and following concerns expressed by industry stakeholders and potential bidders for the 5G Spectrum, including MTN, about the possibility of meeting the deadline in light of the flight disruptions, the Commission’s Board approved an extension of the deadline from Wednesday, November 24, 2021, to Monday, November 29, 2021. 

Indeed, on November 23, 2021, MTN had communicated to the Commission via email, asserting its concerns about the air traffic controllers’ strike and how it is likely to impede the timely submission of their bid. 

On December 1, 2021, the Commission announced that at the close of the bid submission date of November 29, 2021, three companies, namely MTN Nigeria, Mafab Communications Ltd, and Airtel Networks Ltd had successfully submitted their bids in line with the requirements of the IM. 

The public must also be aware that all three bidders are existing licensees of the Commission under different license categories. 

The Commission would like to state that the BusinessDay newspaper’s story is replete with misinformation, which is capable of misleading industry stakeholders, the general public and undermining the integrity of the ongoing process for the auction of the 5G spectrum. 

For instance, the publication alleged that Mafab Communications is a relatively unknown operator in the industry, suggesting that it was not eligible to bid for the spectrum. The IM has clearly stipulated that new entrants into the industry can participate in the bid and if they are successful, the Commission will issue the entity an operating license in line with the extant provisions of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003 and its licensing regulations.

The Commission is consistently guided by its well-established principles of fairness, firmness, and forthrightness and wishes to assure Nigerians that it is determined to ensure the successful implementation of the 5G Auction spectrum, which is set to take place on December 13, 2021.

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FG Applauds NCC’s Commitment To Enhancing Digital Skill In Youths

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FG Applauds NCC’s Commitment To Enhancing Digital Skill In Youths

…Existing policies are designed to accelerate the delivery of digital economy benefits, Says Pantami

…We’re poised to deepen digital access – Danbatta

Olushola Okunlade 

The Federal Government has applauded the commitment and dedication of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) towards enhancing digital skills development among youths, through the implementation of various Information and Communication Technology skill acquisition programs.

Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, gave the commendation during the inauguration of a Digital Nigeria Centre (DNC), a project executed by the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF), an arm of NCC, at the Ijesa Muslim Grammar School, Ilesa, Osun State recently.

Representing President Muhamadu Buhari at the event, Aregbesola commended the NCC for timely and thorough implementation of the project, saying he was confident that the project will promote the connection of public secondary schools to broadband internet in the Ilesa community and ultimately equip beneficiaries with 21st-century skills.

“I would like to thank my very good friend and brother, the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, for assenting to our request to have the first of this remodeled project in Osun State sited in Ilesa. I will also like to thank the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, and the entire Management and staff of NCC and the USPF, as well as their technical partners for timely and successful completion of this laudable project,” he said.

FG Applauds NCC’s Commitment to Enhancing Digital Skill in Youths
Left-Right: Iyabode Solanke, Director, Projects, NCC; Prof. Adeolu Akande, Chairman, Board of Commissioners, NCC; Hon. Rauf Aregbesola, Minister for Interior, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
FG Applauds NCC’s Commitment to Enhancing Digital Skill in Youths
Commissioning of the Digital Nigeria Centre at Ijesha Muslim Grammar School, Osun State.
FG Applauds NCC’s Commitment to Enhancing Digital Skill in Youths
USPF, NCC staff, Solanke, and Aregbesola at the Commissioning of the Digital Nigeria Centre/ICT Library at Ijesha Muslim Grammar School.

On the sideline of the commissioning, Aregbesola also announced the establishment of President Muhammadu Buhari N100 million Technology Fund for Youth Empowerment, to nudge the emergence of world-class technology experts. The Minister of Interior stated that the Fund targets 2,000 youths in the next two years, who will be provided with devices for training in different areas such as software development and design, amongst others.

The Governor of Osun State, Adegboyega Oyetola, who was represented by the State’s Commissioner for Innovation, Science and Technology, Dr. Babatunde Olawale, expressed the gratitude of the State Government to the Federal Government, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, and the Nigerian Communications Commission, for initiative and particularly for inaugurating the pioneer remodeled DNC project in Osun State. Oyetola also informed the enthusiastic gathering that Osun State Government was willing and ready to collaborate with NCC to replicate the project in other parts of the State.

Speaking in the same vein, Pantami, who was represented at the event by the Chairman, Board of Commissioners of NCC, Prof. Adeolu Akande, also commended the NCC and USPF on the delivery of the DNC project on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He declared that the project and similarly instituted ones were initiated by the government to give expression to its vision to effectively digitise the nation’s economy for increased prosperity for all Nigerians.

Pantami stated that the Federal Government is focused on promoting the digital economy across the country and that this had informed the renaming of the Ministry of Communications to the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy. On the heels of the re-christening, Pantami recalled that the Federal Government emplaced Digital Nigeria-oriented policies to reinforce the focus of existing policies in order to accelerate the delivery of derivable benefits of digital economy to Nigerians, regardless of their locations and circumstances.

FG Applauds NCC’s Commitment to Enhancing Digital Skill in Youths
Solanke, representing the Executive Vice Chairman, NCC.
FG Applauds NCC’s Commitment to Enhancing Digital Skill in Youths
Akande, representing the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy
FG Applauds NCC’s Commitment to Enhancing Digital Skill in Youths
Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, making a speech.

Very central among the policies is the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) 2020-2030, a 10-year, eight-pillar focused blueprint for actualising Federal Government’s digital economy agenda unveiled in November 2019.

Pantami asserted that the DNC inaugurated at Ilesa was a concrete implementation of the Digital Literacy and Skills, the second pillar of NDEPS.

According to Pantami, the overarching objective of the DNC project is to facilitate the adoption of digital lifestyles in the schools as well as in the school communities. The Minister averred that the project’s significance cannot be under-estimated, considering its ability to improve digital skills for the youths and subsequently make them globally competitive.

Pantami said the Nigerian government is determined to arm the youths with digital skills, strong literacy, and numeracy skills, critical and innovative thinking skills, complex problem-solving aptitude, the ability to collaborate and deploy socio-emotional skills, which they require to transform their lives and build the economy.

“We have already made a number of giant strides in the development of our digital economy culture and the deployment of initiatives such as the Digital Nigeria Centre eloquently demonstrates the current administration’s commitment to connecting all Nigerians,” Pantami said as he equally expressed the Federal Government’s commitment to its tripartite agenda of improving the economy, curbing corruption and enhancing national security through effective deployment of ICT in all nooks and crannies of the country.

FG Applauds NCC’s Commitment to Enhancing Digital Skill in Youths
Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and Akande.
FG Applauds NCC’s Commitment to Enhancing Digital Skill in Youths
Dr Omoniyi Ibietan, Head, Online Media, NCC, compering the event.
FG Applauds NCC’s Commitment to Enhancing Digital Skill in Youths
Students of Ijesha Muslim Grammar School, Ilesa, Osun State.

In his remark, Danbatta, who was represented at the event by the Commission’s Director of Projects, Iyabode Solanke, said all the regulatory activities, initiatives, and programs that the Commission had undertaken since 2019, in collaboration with its critical stakeholders, including its arm, the USPF, have been targeted at giving concrete expression to Nigeria’s deliberate policy to migrate to a fully digital economy.

He said the Commission achieves this by consistently committing itself to the expansion of appropriate infrastructure to enhance digital literacy and skills in view of the economic and social impact of digitization on all sectors.

The NCC Chief Executive restated the Commission’s commitment to the overall objective of bridging the digital divide through the provision of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as well as broadband access to the unserved and underserved institutions and communities in the country.

Earlier, the Principal of Ijesa Muslim Grammar School, Ramota Ilesanmi, thanked President Buhari-led Federal Government for the project, saying that it will go a long way in meeting the ICT needs of students and residents of the city.

The DNC, formerly known as School Knowledge Centre (SKC), is one of the projects in the Access Programme framework of the USPF, conceptualized to promote the availability and utilisation of ICT and resources of the Internet in teaching and learning in public schools in underserved, unserved and rural areas. Specific objectives of DNC are to increase ICT literacy among school teachers and students; provide a platform for accessing online educational resources; equip students with ICT skills; facilitate ICT adoption in teaching and learning; as well as increase pass rate in Mathematics, English language, and other science subjects.

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To Live, Lead In The Future Embrace And Utilise ICT – Danbatta Urges Youths

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To Live, Lead In The Future Embrace And Utilise ICT – Danbatta Urges Youths

…NCC is working collaboratively and strategically with its supervising ministry, Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy – Danbatta

Olushola Okunlade 

Reckoning that 70 per cent of the new value to be created in the economy over the next decades will be based on digitally-enabled platform business models, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has stated unequivocally that it is focused on implementing all sectoral interventions focused on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) youth empowerment, Prof. Umar Danbatta.

Danbatta made this declaration while delivering the 10th and 11th combined Convocation Lecture of Fountain University, Osogbo, Osun State. He asserted that the resolve of the Commission to pursue very vigorously a bouquet of ICT programs focused on the youth is based on the projected opportunity for the youth in the emerging ICT-based labour market.

Danbatta recalled that statistics from Global System for Mobile Communication Association (GSMA) and the World Economic Forum (WEF), have indicated that unique mobile subscriptions are expected to grow up to 5.7 billion by 2025 with concurrent growth in Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) connections, and Internet subscriptions and corresponding growth in operators’ revenue and investment.

The CEO of NCC also said that fourth-generation (4G) connections are expected to grow to 57 per cent; Fifth Generation (5G) is also envisaged to have 1.8 billion connections; usage of smartphones is projected to grow to 81 per cent; Internet of Things (IoT) will grow from 13.1 billion to 24 billion connections; and contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by the mobile industry is expected to grow by, at least, 5.1 per cent by 2025.

The implications of the foregoing, according to Danbatta, are a huge, incredible opportunity for youth to own businesses.

“Therefore, while NCC is working collaboratively and strategically with its supervising ministry, Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, it is also working with young Nigerians to prepare them for harnessing these opportunities for personal and national prosperity. It is this huge prospect that informed NCC to institute a number of initiatives and interventions targeting the youth in a unique and unprecedented institutionalisation of strategic collaboration and partnership,” he said.

Danbatta Pivots Nigeria’s Socio-economic Development on ICT Adoption, Utilisation
Prof Danbatta, delivering the convocation lecture.
Danbatta Pivots Nigeria’s Socio-economic Development on ICT Adoption, Utilisation
Dr Ikechukwu Adinde, Director, Public Affairs, NCC; and NCC EVC Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta

The programs, according to Danbatta, include the ICT Hubs Support and Engagement, which is a forum that brings together key players, actors, and the youths in the Nigerian tech-ecosystem to deliberate and suggest policy framework and strategies that could further develop the sector to catalyse improved local content in the ICT/telecommunications sector.

There is also the annual ICT Innovation Competition and Exhibition aimed at facilitating sustainable digital start-ups’ development through a platform to showcase their digital innovative solutions.

Also, the Annual Hackathon is designed to challenge start-ups and tech hubs in Nigeria to produce impactful and sustainable innovative solutions that will address common societal challenges using digital technologies.

Danbatta said the ICT Park Project being built across the six geo-political zones of the country to boost digital skills among young people, promote innovation, provide jobs for young Nigerians and ultimately support the Federal Government Digital Agenda is equally a strategic program focused on harnessing and optimizing the youths’ creative energy for development.

Other related projects in this regard include the NCC National Essay Competition engaging undergraduates in Nigerian tertiary institutions to explore and enhance research in tertiary institutions and build capacity.

In addition, the school support programs which include the Digital Awareness Programme (DAP), a special intervention initiated as a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project in response to the digital information knowledge gap observed in the country; as well as the Advanced Digital Appreciation Programme for Tertiary Institutions (ADAPTI), instituted to bridge the knowledge skill gap in higher institutions of learning, largely target the youth and students.

Accordingly, Danbatta called on the youth to consciously take note of emergent segments in ICT that are available for them to explore. These, according to him, include Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), and Big Data.

He also enjoined youths and students to pay attention not only to any of those technology segments but also their overlapping variables such as hyper-connectivity, supercomputing, cybersecurity, and a smarter world such as robotics, 3D printing, and sensors – which are at the heart of the circular economy.

In recognition of the innovative minds of Nigeria’s huge youth population, Danbatta said the NCC had put all the ICT youth empowerment initiatives to support a digitally-skilled workforce that will fit into the Digital Economy Project of Nigeria. “The Commission is committed to fostering partnership and collaboration with the technology hubs and startups, to accelerate innovations and the creation of a digitally-skilled workforce for industrial growth and sustainable development of the nation,” the EVC said.

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FG Lifts Suspension Of Twitter Operations As NITDA DG Highlight Details Of Agreement

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#TwitterBanInNigeria

…As Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, CCIE, Chairman Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement and Director-General National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) highlights details of the agreement

Olushola Okunlade Writes

The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) directs me to inform the public that President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, has approved the lifting of the suspension of Twitter operation in Nigeria effective from 12am tonight, 13th January 2022.

The approval was given following a memo written to the President by the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim. In the Memo, the Minister updates and requests the President’s approval for the lifting based on the Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement’s recommendation. You may recall that on 5th June 2021, the FGN suspended the operation of Twitter through an announcement made by the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alh Lai Mohammed. Thereafter, the President constituted a seven-man Presidential Committee to engage Twitter Inc.

Subsequently, in its wisdom, the Presidential Committee set a 20-member Technical Committee comprising all relevant government agencies. The Technical Committee engaged and worked directly with the Twitter team. The immediate and remote cause of the suspension was the unceasing use of the platform by some unscrupulous elements for subversive purposes and criminal activities, propagating fake news, and polarising Nigerians along tribal and religious lines, among others. These issues bordering on National Security, Cohesion and the effects of the abuse of the Twitter platform forced the FGN to suspend the operation of Twitter to address the direct and collateral issues around its operations in Nigeria.

The new global reality is that digital platforms and their operators wield enormous influence over the fabric of our society, social interaction and economic choices. These platforms can be used as either a tool or a weapon. Every nation is grappling with how to balance its usage efficiently. Without balancing, every citizen’s security, privacy, social well-being, and development are at stake. Therefore, our action is a deliberate attempt to recalibrate our relationship with Twitter to achieve the maximum mutual benefits for our nation without jeopardising the justified interests of the Company. Our engagement has been very respectful, cordial, and successful.

The process of resolving this impasse between the FGN and Twitter Inc. has helped lay a foundation for a mutually beneficial future with endless possibilities. Twitter is a platform of choice for many Nigerians ranging from young innovators to public sector officials who find it helpful to engage their audience. Therefore, our engagement will help Twitter improve and develop more business models to cover a broader area in Nigeria.

Furthermore, the FGN looks forward to providing a conducive environment for Twitter and other global tech companies to achieve their potential and be sustainably profitable in Nigeria. While appreciating all Nigerians, especially the vibrant Nigerian youths who have borne the long wait to resolve this impasse, the FGN is happy to say that the gains made from this shared national sacrifice are immeasurable. Some of the gains include:
a) Ongoing economic and training opportunities as the Company continues to consider expanding its presence in Nigeria;
b) Getting a better understanding of how to use the Twitter platform effectively to improve businesses;
c) Revenue generation from the operation of Twitter in Nigeria;
d) Smooth and coordinated relationship between Nigerian Government and Twitter leading to mutual trust;
e) Reduction of cybercriminal activities such as terrorism, cyberstalking, hate speech, etc.; and
f) Working with Twitter and other global companies to build an acceptable code of conduct following the global best practice.

The FGN has asked Twitter to fulfil some conditions before restoring its services. These conditions addressed legal registration of operations, taxation, and managing prohibited publication in line with Nigerian laws. Twitter has agreed to meet all the conditions set by the FGN.

Consequently, the FGN and Twitter have decided on an execution timeline, which has started this week. Our engagement with Twitter opens a new chapter in global digital diplomacy and sets a new operational template for Twitter to come back stronger for the benefit of Nigerians.

The following are the resolutions agreed with Twitter. Inc.:
i. Twitter has committed to establishing a legal entity in Nigeria during the first quarter of 2022. The legal entity will register with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). The establishment of the entity is Twitter’s first step in demonstrating its long-term commitment to Nigeria.
ii. Twitter has agreed to appoint a designated country representative to interface with Nigerian authorities. The Global Public Policy team is also directly available through a dedicated communication channel.
iii. Twitter has agreed to comply with applicable tax obligations on its operations under Nigerian law.
iv. Twitter has agreed to enrol Nigeria in its Partner Support and Law Enforcement Portals. The Partner Support Portal provides a direct
channel for government officials and Twitter staff to manage prohibited content that violates Twitter community rules. At the same time, the Law Enforcement Portal provides a channel for the law enforcement agencies to submit a report with a legal justification where it suspects that content violates Nigerian Laws. Taken together, these represent a comprehensive compliance apparatus.
v. Twitter has agreed to act with a respectful acknowledgement of Nigerian laws and the national culture and history on which such legislation has been built and work with the FGN and the broader industry to develop a Code of Conduct in line with global best practices, applicable in almost all developed countries.

Therefore, the FGN lifts the suspension of the Twitter operations in Nigeria from midnight of 13th January 2022. We encourage all users of the Twitter platform to maintain ethical behaviour and refrain from promoting divisive, dangerous, and distasteful information on the platform. As patriotic citizens, we need to be mindful that anything illegal offline is also illegal online and that committing a crime using a Nigerian Internet Protocol (IP) is synonymous with committing a crime within our jurisdiction.

Considering Twitter’s influence on our democracy, our economy, and the very fabric of our corporate existence as a Nation, our priority is to adapt, not ban, Twitter. The FGN is committed to working with Twitter to do anything possible to help Nigerians align and navigate Twitter algorithmic design to realise its potentials while avoiding its perils. In his approval, the President appreciates the Presidential Committee led by the Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, Alh Lai Mohammed, for the supervisory role and guidance given to the Technical Committee during the engagement. Similarly, the Presidential Committee commends the Technical Committee for a professional, robust and productive engagement with Twitter Inc. It also appreciates Government Regulatory Agencies and Internet Service Providers who implemented the FGN’s directives during the suspension.

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