29 November 2012

Nigeria: Senate Moves to Review NCC Act

The Senate Committee on Communications has said it will soon review the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Act of 2003, aimed at creating more regulatory empowerment for NCC to fully control the telecoms industry.

The move to review the NCC Act, is sequel to the increased rate of poor service quality across networks and the inability of the telecoms regulatory body, the NCC to nip in the bud, the challenges of poor service quality.

They blamed the challenges on weak regulatory powers of NCC, which they said were subject to the weak policy as contained in the NCC Act of 2003.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications, Glibert Nnaji who dropped the hint in Abuja at a recent workshop organised by PostNet Communications in collaboration with NCC, told THISDAY in an interview that there was need to review the Act, which he said was long overdue for a review.

"We are witnessing poor service quality, and telecoms operators are not improving on it, as they keep doing promos and lotteries to the detriment of their subscribers. Without sanctions network providers will take things for granted in this country and do whatever they want to do. We at national assembly will no longer accept the issue of poor service quality from operators and we are trying to come up with laws that will compel operators to improve on their services," said Nnaji.

Although he sympathised with telecoms operators over their many challenges ranging from multiple taxation, willful attacks on telecoms infrastructure, interference of some federal, state and local government officials and agencies, he however said if the NCC Act was reviewed, it would correct a lot of anomalies in the telecoms sector, and would give the NCC stronger regulatory powers to control and implement policies that would checkmate both the government and operators' excesses.

Nnaji noted: "We are going to amend the telecoms Act in conformity with the present realities. Local, State and Federal government agencies are billing the operators on various levies. They have complained to us that such interference was eating deep into telecoms operations and at the same time, affecting quality of service in the country, and we are currently working on that in order to salvage the ugly situation."

Fielding questions from the recent face-off between NCC and the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), over mast regulation in the country, Nnaji said: "Both agencies are government agencies, empowered by law to operate and implement their policies," but that the face-off showed some clashes of interests in their regulatory functions, which attracted the Senate committee to wade into the matter, and is currently studying the laws that set up the two government agencies, to see how they could be amended.

"These are some of the things we are talking about. There is need for a review of some of the Acts establishing government agencies, like that of NCC among several others," Nnaji said.

According to him, "The NESREA Act gave it the power to regulate the environment, while the NCC Act empowers it to regulate the telecoms industry. So we are trying to amend areas where there are clashes of regulatory roles."

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