4 December 2012

Nigeria: NCC Wants NIGCOMSAT Bill Dropped

Telecom regulatory authority, Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, has requested the Senate to discontinue any consideration of the proposed bill on the Nigerian Communications Satellite, NIGCOMSAT, as it is contradictory to existing telecommunications laws, and would be inimical to the stability of the sector if passed into law.

Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management of NCC, Mr. Okechukwu Itanyi, made the submission to the joint public hearing by the Senate Committee on Communications and Science and Technology, with a strong opposition to the Bill.

He said: "The Commission opposes in its entirety, the passage of the Bill by the National Assembly.

"The Bill serves to add nothing positive to the current state of the industry but will destabilise and distort the achievements, which the industry has recorded in terms of regulatory certainty, investor encouragement and healthy competition."

In line with the clamour by the Ministry of Communications and other stakeholders, Mr. Itanyi said a privatised NIG-COMSAT can seek any license it wishes to operate to provide whatever service it intends to provide from the regulator.

He said currently, the company is a licensee of the NCC, wondering what difference the bill will deliver to the company.

The bill, which is already interpreted as a bad omen for the telecommunications industry, and tantamount to the National Assembly issuing telecom licenses to government agencies, against the provisions of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, is also opposed by the Communications Technology Ministry, which supervises NIGCOMSAT, as well as the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Mr. Itanyi indicated that the provision on the bill for NIGCOMSAT to manage and operate frequency bands as well as designing and operation of communications satellite with respect to telephony, television, radio, broadcasting, broadband internet services, navigation, global positioning system or any other activities or facilities of like nature, together with the transmitters, tele-ports, transponders, earth stations, terminal, antenna and frequency band is an overwhelming contradiction.

He said: "Section 121 of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003, already provides that 'Notwithstanding the provision of any other written law but subject to the provisions of this Act, the Commission shall have the sole and exclusive power to manage and administer the frequency spectrum for the communications sector and in that regard to grant licenses for and regulate the use of the said frequency.'

Itanyi said the provision that empowers NIGCOMSAT to provide for the bandwidth requirements of government agencies on commercial basis also contradicts the provision of Section 121 of NCA Act, while also conflicting with government's policies on space development and ICT growth.

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