President of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, has asked the Federal Government to thread with caution over the planned merger of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).
Adebayo, who spoke on the heels of the recent approval granted by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for the merger of NCC and NBC, said the implication for the planned merger would be the complete dismantle of the successful structures and frameworks of the two agencies that were built over the years.
Adebayo told THISDAY that both NCC and NBC had been very successful in their philosophies and agendas as regulatory bodies, and that any attempt by government to collapse the two bodies would definitely disrupt their structures and ideologies that had proved to be successful over the years.
He admitted that technologies were converging and technology regulatory bodies should also converge but became worried about how government would address the issue without bringing in sentiments and politics, insisting that there had never been any known successful merger carried out by government in the past.
NCC is an independent national regulatory authority for the telecommunications industry, charged with the responsibility of creating an enabling environment for healthy competition among operators in the telecoms industry, while the NBC is empowered to regulate the broadcasting industry, charged with the responsibility of cable licensing, as well as advising government on issues of broadcasting.
Both agencies have been very successful in their regulatory functions, until recently when there were observable traces of clashes of interests in their regulatory roles, resulting from convergence of modern technologies, which is fast becoming a global trend.
In order to avoid clashes of interests, coupled with the determination to have a free flow of technology convergence, through seamless regulation, stakeholders of the industry started calling for the merger of NCC and NBC.
The Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, saw it as a worthy call and took it upon herself to further press government to get its consent.
The minister's subtle way of getting at what she passionately believes in, yielded result last week, when the Federal Executive Council gave its approval, after the minister re-presented the issue at the FEC meeting.
Since the approval last week, most stakeholders have hailed government's consent on the matter, explaining that convergence of technology regulatory bodies is a global phenomenon, owing to the convergence of modern technologies in recent times.
President of the Association Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria, Mr. Lanre Ajayi, told THISDAY that the decision of government to grant approval for the merger of NCC and NBC was a welcomed development in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.
According to him, "technologies are converging and the regulators of such technologies need to converge as well. With a single technology device, people could listen to radio commentaries, watch television, make phone calls, watch and stream videos online among others. It is just appropriate that NCC and NBC merged into a single large regulatory body, in order to move the country forward."
But in spite of widespread call for merger, Adebayo maintained that government must handle the merger process with caution, to avoid creating problems for the industry. His worry is in the area of the role of the Ministry of Information that is directly supervising NBC, and the role of Ministry of Communications Technology that is directly supervising NCC, after the planned merger.