*As Buhari names him NCC boss
By Angela Nkwocha
President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the reappointment of Professor Umar Garba Danbatta as the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission, (NCC). Professor Danbatta’s reappointment was based on the recommendations of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, in line with the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003, according to the Spokesperson to the Minister, Mrs. Uwa Suleiman.
She said Danbatta staged a come back to the NCC to consolidate on the gains made in the telecommunications sector, in line with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy, especially with the outbreak of covid-19, which has made it mandatory that the country lays emphasis for growth and development with a strong ICT base.
While wishing Professor Danbatta the best, Dr. Pantami encouraged him to significantly improve on the overall performance of the Commission, as well as ensure that adequate mechanisms are put in place to facilitate the implementation of all policies of the Federal Government through the ministry. Furthermore, the minister enjoined him to ensure that the overall interest of telecommunication consumers, Nigerians and the investors are adequately protected.
No doubt, the appointment is square peg in square hole, given Dambatta’s giant strides since he came into office five years ago. Needless reeling all these out, but it is important to state that there has been exponential increases in broadband penetration across the country, with lots of Nigerians now enjoying seamless data operation, even at reduced costs and with lots of benefits attached thereto.
Danbatta had in the past five years weathered stoms with consumers and operators almost tearing him apart with accisations and counter-accusation of aupporting the other side more, but the erudite Professor had deployed the best professional methods in explaining decisions taken to the satisfaction of stakehokders, which ultimately made him a delight to both the telecomm consumers and operators alike.
Born in Danbatta Local Government Council of Kano State, Prof. Danbatta obtained his BEng, MSc degrees from the Technical University of Wroclaw in Poland and his PhD from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) UK respectively.
Danbatta before taking over the helm of affairs at the NCC in 2015 was the Vice Chancellor, Kano State University of Science and Technology, Wudil.
He also lectured in the Department of Electrical Engineering, Faculty of Technology at Bayero University, Kano for 28 years, where he taught courses in telecommunications engineering and electronics. He was also Dean of the Faculty and Head of Department during his time there.
Since his appointment as the NCC’s CEO, Prof Danbatta has succeeded in tremendously transforming the telecom sector in Nigeria, especially in the areas of infrastructural development, consumer empowerment and satisfaction, research and development, improved stakeholder relation, and a significant increase in active mobile broadband penetration.
No wonder the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) included Danbatta in its 2017-2020 study group on e-Waste Management and Circular Economy. The ITU’s commendation of the EVC’s accomplishments since his appointment on
August 4, 2015, is a concise summation of the impact and experience he has brought to bear on the industry at large.
Precisely on August 4, 2015, Danbatta was appointed by the President and subsequently confirmed by the Senate on November 25, 2015 in line with the provision of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA), 2003, following thorough and rigorous screening by the Senator Gilbert Nnaji-led Communications Committee of the Senate.
Danbatta’s job as the umpire of the telecoms industry was affirmed for a five-year tenure in the first instance, as stipulated in the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA), 2003. It is evident, four years and few months into the five-year term, Danbatta has left nobody in doubt about his competence as a regulator per excellence, having continued to provide the right leadership at NCC.
On assumption of office at the NCC’s architectural masterpiece headquarters located in Maitama District, Abuja, the former University don began to effectively confront many challenges bedeviling the industry to enhance the development of a knowledge-driven, inclusive, globally-competitive and prosperous Nigeria through telecommunications.
Thus, Danbatta hit the ground running by unveiling his 8-Point Agenda, which was designed to provide a focus for the Commission and the industry as a whole over the next five years from 2015.
Focal issues on the agenda include facilitating broadband penetration, improving quality service, optimizing usage and benefits of spectrum, promoting ICT innovation and investment opportunities, facilitating strategic collaboration and partnership, protecting and empowering consumers, promoting fair competition and inclusive growth as well as ensuring regulatory excellence and operational efficiency.
Recall that Nigeria exited a protracted economic recession in 2017, though the country remains Africa’s largest ICT market with 82% of the continent’s telecoms subscribers, 29% of internet usage, and over 11% contribution to national GDP in 2018. The point is that at the time recession was biting hard on the economy, the telecommunications sector shouldered a lot of burdens for the revival of the economy.
The Arewa Youth Assembly (AYA), a socio-cultural northern group in Nigeria, has rated Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta high in his stewardship as the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission since 2015.
The group made this known in a statement issued in Abuja where it adjudged Danbatta’s performance as having more strategically positioned the NCC to be at the forefront of accelerating socio-economic development of the country.
key achievements of Danbatta, have further consolidated the growth already recorded in the industry and prepared a more fertile ground for the country to experience accelerated socio-economic development leveraging telecoms platforms.
Through his 8-Point Agenda, as a five-year clear roadmap for his first term, Danbatta has ensured more Nigerians are now connected on 3G and 4G with over 72 million Nigerians on these broadband networks. Also, he pioneered the trial 5G network in 2019, which are future frontiers in digital communications. Danbatta also introduced the 2442 Do-Not-Disturb (DND) short code 2016 to tackle the menace of unsolicited telemarketing for the citizens.
Also, the Commission, under Danbatta, issued a direction to service providers on Data Roll-Over, enabling consumers to roll over unused data for period of time, ranging from 1 day to 7 days, depending on the data plan, among other consumer- centric directives.
Danbatta revolutionised stakeholder engagement. From Ogun State, where Danbatta used his clout to ensure 47 base stations were immediately unsealed by Governor Ibikunle Amosun, to Kano State, where over N200 million was waived on levies, to Kogi State, where 120 base station sites were reopened in 2018.
In the area of strategic collaboration, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by Danbatta and Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CNB), Godwin Emefiele, with a view to boosting mobile money service penetration and financial inclusion in the country has also struck a chord.
The inter-agency partnership between the two giant regulators has also born another fruit, saving a major service provider, 9mobile, from imminent collapse while Danbatta has also ensured the successful listing of telecoms companies, MTN and Airtel on the Nigerians Stock Exchange (NSE) making Nigerians to have ownership shares in the companies.
Under his leadership, as NCC boss, Professor Danbatta ensured the completion of Emergency Communications Centres (ECCs) across the country to promote and enhance public safety through a toll-free, three-digit number, ‘112’, as the Universal Emergency Communications telephone number in Nigeria the toll-free number can help distressed persons access help from the Police, Road Safety Corps, Civil Defence Corps, Fire and Ambulance Services and emergency responders.
Danbatta has introduced many regulatory frameworks such as the E-waste Regulations, Commercial Satellite Regulations, Disaster Recovery Guidelines, VAS Aggregator Licence Framework, and National Roaming Framework, which is still being worked on, among several others.
In the last five years, access to telecoms service has increased from around 150 million to 186 million; Internet subscribers increased from about 80 million to close to 130 million; broadband penetration rose from six per cent to close to 40 percent.
Telecoms contributions to gross domestic product (GDP) has also increased from 8 percent to 11 percent, quality of service has improved, cases of unsolicited text messages have been curtailed while many initiatives have been put in place under Danbatta for adequate consumer protection.
Aside his leadership qualities and sagacity, he is an embodiment of humility and an epitome of good leadership. posterity will forever recognise him as major contributor to the growth of Nigeria’s economy through effective and innovative regulation of the digital ecosystem to propel overall national development.
He has ganered so many awards of excellence both locally and internationally for his positive impact in the telecom industry. His reappointment has been described by many as well deserved, no doubt his efficient combination of hardworking and professionalism has left an indelible mark in the telecom industry.