Valedictory Press Breifing by Minister of Communications, Dr Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu, FNCS

Protocol

Good morning Gentlemen and Ladies of the fourth estate of the realm, I want to sincerely thank you for honouring our invitation to the Valedictory Press Briefing holding here in the NAF Conference Centre.

Let me begin by expressing our very sincere appreciation to the mass media for the immense support to the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration since inception and to the activities of the Ministry of Communications under my able leadership.

It has been my honour to have served the Federal Government of Nigeria at a time when our destiny, peace, prosperity and commonwealth were anchored by President Buhari. But through God and His might, I steered the Ministry off the path of delusion and deceit. History has added pages in honour to our determination to harvest and harness the best in ICT industry.

As expected, between my assumption of office and today, several events have taken place, culminating in this Press briefing, which have provided me with full grasp information on ICT/Telecoms operations in the industry at large.

As a digital immigrant, I drew an agenda to guide the Ministry in attaining its core mandate in line with the CHANGE MANTRA and NEXT LEVEL of this administration. I received briefs from the Directors in the Ministry, the Chief Executive Officers of the Ministry’s Agencies and also from the relevant stakeholders in the industry.

In order to bring the presence of the government to the global stage, I attended forums, conferences and workshops home and abroad, all of which gave me proper perspectives of the industry.

At the end of my various internal and external interactions, it became obvious that the communications sector is presently focused on Information Technology infrastructure development, promotion of ICT local content, ICT deployment in government, extending ICT access to Nigerians and providing an enabling environment for competitiveness in the industry.

As the Minister of Communications since November 2015, I have not carried himself as “a learned person” but as one who aspires to acquire more knowledge in the constantly changing world of ICT. Astute, open and ready to listen, from day one, I shunned the toga of the man at the top. I was willing to learn; but more noticeable, the desire to propagate an inclusive approach in formulating and charting a course for the Nigerian Communications sector.

I made a commitment to turn the ICT sector into a “Cash-cow” so as to revive the economy leveraging ICTs in all its ramifications.

Indeed, my first shot was the convocation of a Stakeholders Forum in Ibadan, Oyo State to draw a four-year roadmap for the sector. To enable stakeholders in the Communications sector brainstorm and adopt strategies for the rapid and sustainable development of the sector. We had Follow up Committees, Roadmap Multi-Stakeholder Working Group, Implementation with Monitoring &Evaluation and stakeholder engagement and sensitization events.

We thereafter came up with the National ICT Roadmap 2017–2020 and a Sector strategic plan for 2016–2020, to chart a short-term framework for the Sector. The National ICT roadmap of the Ministry sets out the intent and commitment of the government to continue the development of the ICT sector and to implement the sector policies and plans in an integrated, focused and innovative manner that aligns with the change mantra of the current administration.

The roadmap, now approved by the Federal Executive Council seeks to address both public and private infrastructure deficit in Nigeria’s ICT sector for substantial improvement in the quality of service. Some key aspects of the plan are improved broadband penetration and internet coverage, boost for ICT education with the upgrading of the Digital Bridge Institute to a University of ICT (which is currently on the hold), enhance satellite communication and coverage, curb cybercrime, ensure that ICT contributes a bigger share of national revenue and acts as a catalyst to the economic diversification drive of the Buhari Administration.

We rightly identified five key focus areas on the Roadmap, namely: Infrastructure development including information security, broadband development & improvement of Quality of Service & Access, Smart Government, Human Capital capacity building, and Local Content development

Presently, the following policy interventions are in progress towards making the Communications Sector a major driver of the national economy:

(i) National ICT Roadmap

(ii) National Broadband Plan as the foundation for infrastructure development;

(iii) Encouraging service providers to use renewable energy for powering Base Transceiver Stations for improvement of Quality of Service and Access;

(iv) Engaging with the Federal Ministry of Education to ensure mandatory ICT education at the Primary level and alignment of the ICT education curriculum to meet current global trends;

(v) Accelerating the bridging of the Knowledge Skills Gap in the Nigeria ICT Skills set ecosystem; establishment of ICT Park, the establishment of ICT hubs and learning centers across the six geopolitical zones of the country;

(vi) Encouraging implementers of e-services to incentivize users to migrate from lower to higher technology things provide ICT utilization and exploitation across sectors;

(vii) Promoting initiatives that will advance innovation and creativity;

(viii) Creating a sustainable funding framework for the implementation of the e-government Master Plan and other ICT initiatives of government through active engagement with the private sector;

(ix) Enforcing implementation of the Local Content Guidelines to ensure patronage of indigenous products and services, as well as increase participation of Nigerians in the ICT economy; including patronage of Nigcomsat by government and local private investors;

(x) National Addressing Policy to promote national security and support e-commerce;

(xi) Accelerating the passage of the Nigeria Postal Commission Bill to optimize the capacity of NIPOST to be relevant for improved service delivery and bridge the digital divide towards inclusive development.

Similarly, the Nigerian Postal Service is presently kicking back to life in a massive turn-around anchored on information technology; through our ingenuity and passion for revamping passive agencies of government.

Under my humble leadership, we have displayed high responsibility towards this national assignment by holding telecoms operators accountable to their operational lapses while formulating policies to entrench international best practices.

We are pushing for an ICT Development Bank dedicated to funding broadband and data infrastructure development. The proposed bank is expected to serve as a special purpose vehicle to propel the growth of the sector under a PPP arrangement.

We have also shown great concern for the plight of service providers. The National Economic Council has approved a policy to harmonize right of way charges payable by telecom companies and related public utility infrastructure on Local Governments, States and Federal Highways. This is a policy to minimize the spaces occupied, the burden on the roads and reduces taxes payable by telecom operators.

Stakeholders in the Communications sector are agreed that the phenomenal growth of the sector is a testimony to the hard work and indefatigable contributions of the ministry under my leadership and my team in the last three years or so, building on the impressive track record of this dynamic industry.

Subscription to telecommunications service in Nigeria has peaked at 173,670,035 million as at February 2019. Records from NCC indicate that there were no fewer than 114,725,357 million internet subscribers on the mobile GSM as of February, this year. Subscribers’ teledensity at the same time was placed at 124.05%. This is a phenomenal growth considering the fact that Nigeria embraced the GSM technology barely 17 years ago.

Indeed, it has been a remarkable feat growing investment in the sector from $50 million to over $80 billion. Within this period, it as raked into the Federation Account over N15 trillion, positively influence the way we work and live and added new dynamics to transparency in governance. Indeed, Nigeria currently ranks among the top five fastest growing telecom markets in the world. This record places our country on the same pedestal as China and India and other top economies.

ICT has changed the way people communicate, learn, and conduct business. A World Bank econometric study carried out in 2009 showed that every 10% increase in ICT investments generates a 1.38% increase in GDP. The Nigerian ICT sector today is one of the fastest growing despite the economic recession and contributed about 10% in GDP in 2019. Foreign Direct Investment and local investments is over $70billion dollars.

Nigeria has witnessed a phenomenal growth in its ICT sector and acknowledges the support of the ITU in the country’s ICT evolution. Nigeria and 12 other African countries have been elected into the membership of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Council and, Radio Regulations Board. Nigeria and 12 others including Algeria, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda are in region D

Nigeria made history at the CTO forum in 2015 mid-September in Kenya where Member States rose to elect Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, the EVC, NCC as the new Chairman and Engr. Shola Taylor as the Secretary-General and Chief Executive of the CTO

Nigeria became the first African country to head the World Radio Communications (WRC) Council an arm of the 150-year-old International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The country bagged the honour through Engr. Festus Daudu, former Director Spectrum Management Department of the Federal Ministry of Communications. It was a great honour for Nigeria.

Our world is becoming instrumented, interconnected and intelligent. The systems and technologies that underpin so much of how the world works are becoming smarter. We live in a time of unprecedented advances in every sector of human endeavour. In the ICT industry of developed economies alone, we are seeing the coming of age of a whole new generation of intelligent systems and technologies: more powerful and accessible than ever before.

The same also can be said of our country. Unfortunately, we are wrestling with both an infrastructure gap, after years of underinvestment, and an innovation gap from poor innovation performance in the business sector over the years. Improving both is essential to improve our fundamental economic prospects. By linking infrastructure and innovation, we increase the potential to help close both our infrastructure gap and our innovation gap.

This National Council of Communications Technology (2015–2018), the platform enables me, as the Minister coordinating ICT development in the country to interact with the Hon. Commissioners in charge of ICT matters at the State level towards brainstorming on the optimal approach to ensure effective implementation of ICT policies across the country for enhanced development of the sector in particular and the nation at large.

The meetings have provided the opportunity for us to share thoughts on how to deepen the process of change and progress enshrined in the present administration’s agenda as it concerns the ICT sector. The meetings considered various recommendations from the technical officials on ways and means to reposition ICT in all tiers of government in the Country towards playing the critical role of diversifying the Nation’s economy through emerging ICT opportunities

The Ministry through the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) saved, for the Federal Government, the sum of 3 Billion Naira on a single cleared IT Project of an Agency through its commitment as the government’s clearinghouse for all IT procurement and services in the public sector.

With the implementation of Treasury Single Account (TSA) and Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and BVN, the Federal Government of Nigeria has been saving a minimum of N24.7billion monthly, just because of the implementation of this IT software.

Unbundled the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) Limited into five entities to make it commercially viable and compete with the other information and communications technology (ICT) companies operating in Nigeria’s emerging electronic commercial sector. The entities include NIPOST Banking and Insurance e-Services, NIPOST Property and Development Company, NIPOST Transport and Logistics Services, NIPOST e-Commerce Services and so on.

The Nigerian Communications Satellite (NIGCOMSAT) commenced the provision of In-Orbit Test (IOT) service for the Belarus National System of Satellite Communications and Broadcasting called Belintersat. The service would rake in $6 million for Nigeria for the 15-year period it would last.

To deepen Broadband penetration, 6 infrastructure companies (InfraCos) have been licensed to drive the deployment of infrastructure across the nation’s geographical zones and Lagos — while the remaining one (for North Central) is being processed. The subsidy negotiations with the licensees have reached an advanced stage and will soon be concluded. Nigeria has achieved a broadband penetration of 33% at the end of February 2019.

Disruptive technologies like Blockchain, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, 3D printing, Big Data Analytics are now being used to fight corruption in the public.

Nigeria currently has about over 50,000 base transmitter stations and over 150,000 kilometres of fibre broadband infrastructure. Greater investment in the area of infrastructural is being achieved

eGovernment Masterplan approved and up running. Effective & Integrated E-Governance and Integration of operations of MDA’s and Integration of Government Agencies

The Ministry generated over N500 million from Radio Licensing. We launched five mobile radio frequency monitoring equipment and national spectrum management system for effective monitoring of frequency bands used to provide radio communication services in the country. The first-ever Mobile Radio Frequency Monitory Equipment, National Spectrum Management System, Denial of Service, DOS, Equipment and a National Control Centre in Abuja.

Through Galaxy Backbone the Ministry facilitated the improvement of e-government infrastructure in the country. Key interventions were in the following areas: National Broadband roll out under NICTIB 1 (National ICT Infrastructure Backbone — Phase 1) with provision of Fibre linking 11 States of the Federation covering about 1,101KM, linking of Federal Secretariats and MDAs within the metro net-work with a cumulative coverage of about 939KM; Data Center in Enugu to provide redundancy and guaranty business continuity as well as Over 1722Mbps of Internet to various MDAs. Approval of NICTIB II to cover 17 northern states of the country.

The Ministry has mandated the National Frequency Management Council (NFMC) to develop guidelines for the introduction of TV White Space (TVWS) deployment in the country.

Ministry of Communications sought the cooperation of the private sector on the actualization of the proposed national ICT Park at the Abuja Technology Village. As a result of the collaboration between the Ministry and Abuja Technology Village (ATV), a 6344 square meter of commercial land was earmarked for the establishment of the Park within the free trade zone owned and operated by ATV

We have set the need for NigComSat-2 and NigComSat-3 Satellite, improve reliability and attract new markets. Address the need for additional critical infrastructure to meet the nation’s telecommunications requirement of oil and gas, defence, maritime and aviation thereby reducing capital flight.

The next frontier for communications in Nigeria is Broadband. Access to broadband, Adequate broadband and Sustainable broadband. In the years to come, telecoms contribution to GDP would experience a significant increase as a result of broadband availability.

Key statistics in the Telecom Industry from 2015–2019

1

Subscriber Data

2015- 152,123,172

2019- 173,670,035

2

Tele density

2015- 107.6%

2019- 124.05%

3

Internet Subscribers

2015- 97,824,017

2019- 115,157,470

4

Broadband Penetration

2015- 8.5%

2019- 33.08%

5

Broadband Subscribers

2015- 41,403,821

2019- 63,136,978

The Ministry will continue to put in its best in the discharge of its mandates alongside its Agencies. It is our belief that the communications industry, in the next level, will make quantum leaps and retain its current leadership role in the telecommunication space.

Efforts are on to sustain and accelerate the tempo of achievements through building greater synergy among the ICT institutions, Strengthening the sector policy framework and ensuring greater linkage of sector activities to the overall government agenda.

It is hoped that with planned updating of the ICT legal environment and Institutional coordination arrangements along with a Stronger Public-Private Sector Partnership framework, the sector will be further put on the trajectory of greater achievements.

(i) Nigerian Communications Act 2003 should be reviewed in line with the present dynamics in the industry

(iii) Private sector participation and policy formulation

(iv) Need for Data Protection and E-Commerce Laws

(v) A converged Regulator should be considered given the convergence of Communication

(vi) The passage of the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) Bill will classify telecommunications infrastructure across the country as critical national assets. Critical Technology Infrastructure Protection Law geared towards the promotion of infrastructure development, the security of technology assets, and incentivization of technology deployment in Nigeria.

(viii) Passage and Assent to NIPOST reforms bill and Stamp Duties amendment Bills;

(ix) Provision of Seed Capital for the unbundling and corporatization of NIPOST;

(x) Articulate a national technology project management plan to enhance government-wide ICT project accountability

(xi) Improve documentation of procedures and electronic accountability process so that the government knows who did/ took/ got, what & when?

(xii) Seek ways to add value to existing systems & contextualize to Administrations priorities

(xiii) The establishment of a specialized ICT Development Bank to provide funding for ICT stakeholders/tech start-ups at low-interest rates is also crucial to boost productivity in the industry.

(xiv) A review of the extant Land Use Act to accommodate the overriding objective of technological advancement is also paramount.

(xv) Without a doubt, the successful implementation of the e-governance/e-commerce objectives of any economy rely largely on effective data management and data processing (i.e., data analysis, data storage, and data transfer). Accordingly, the development of relevant e-commerce and data protection laws should be considered.

(xvi) There is the need for the streamlining of different ICT related policies and regulations into an all-embracing framework for better administration. This may involve a revisit of the National ICT Policy of 2012 which amongst other things seeks to establish a converged regulator consisting of departments including but not limited to Telecommunications, Information Technology, Broadcasting, and postal services.

(xvii) The synchronization of operations of different MDA’s in Nigeria is important for ease of doing business and effective service delivery. For instance, an integrated or harmonized process such as a one-stop platform serving different agencies will reduce the cumbersome processes, requirements and bottlenecks that hamper business registration and operation in Nigeria.

(xviii) Nigeria is yet to reach its optimal potential in terms of e-governance. A key point for consideration is the integrated approach to e-governance, some agencies are yet to adapt e-payment channels (such as POS systems) and that applications/websites deployed by some agencies are either non-operational, defective or outdated. It is therefore important to not only intensify the adaptation of e-governance but to monitor and ensure that these innovations are fully functional.

(xix) In addition to encouraging and providing an enabling environment for foreign direct investments, it is important to ensure that indigenous companies are given adequate opportunities to grow. This can be achieved by the strict implementation of local content laws/policies in Nigeria.

Apart from the foregoing, we have worked assiduously on setting the proper policy and strategic environment for the development of ICT in the country.

Going forward, there need to expand the investments in ICT infrastructure to extend connectivity to unserved and underserved areas. In this regard, attention will be paid to the issue of multiple taxations of ICT infrastructure.

Also, we are working to have ICT infrastructure designated as critical national infrastructure. Efforts are being made to procure additional communication satellites to complement the existing NigComSat-2 as a means of reaching areas that cannot easily be covered by terrestrial fiber.

The unprecedented achievements of the present administration in the sector under my leadership cannot be overemphasized. The Ministry through NITDA has deployed 243 eLearning centres, evenly spread across the 6-geopolitical zones of the country.

From 2015 to date, 12 digital libraries have been established in tertiary institutions across the country. In 2018 alone, ICT sector contributed about $10million to the economy. This is an unprecedented achievement in the history of ICT sector in Nigeria. IT innovation Hubs have been created across the country. The North West zonal IT hub are in operation while those of the North East and South West zones are ready for commissioning, 8 more innovation hubs are being established, one in each the 6 geopolitical zones and one in Abuja and Lagos, in collaboration with the National Social Investment office.

From 2015 to date over 2000 Nigerians benefitted from NITDA capacity development program. IT project clearance of NITDA has resulted in a saving of over 16Billion naira in compliance so far. ICT enabled interventions aimed at enhancing the administration’s public financial management reforms has resulted in monthly savings of about N24.7 billion as well as facilitated the recovery of huge sums of money including the recent N1.6 billion from singe account.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we submit our scorecard to History, and to you, we affirm to you that we did our best in the circumstances in which we found ourselves. I do not pretend that I achieved all my dreams and aspirations or that I was perfect and beyond reproach. Rather I submit to you that I served with sincerity of purpose and accountability.

There is no doubt that Nigeria, in the last three years, went through some social and economic downturns. The sector suffered no lesser consequence with the right of way and multiple taxation imbroglio. In the midst of redundant national economic output, greased by dwindling revenue, the ministry maintained steady economic policies favourable to marginal growth of the sector.

In most indices used as metrics in the sector, the entire figures are heading upwards, thus illustrating a capacity to weather the vicissitudes which the economy has suffered before we came on board.

Conclusion

It is with all humility that I thank the Almighty God for the opportunity He granted me to lead the Ministry. May you all enjoy the inalienable rights and privileges in all your future endeavours.

I thank you all for their love and steadfastness. Your accommodation and acceptance of our service and even our weaknesses, your commitment to our beloved Ministry and your prevailing prayers through some of the darkest patches of our governance, have made our trek easier and the journey worthwhile. May our good Lord reward and bless you richly.

I must on a personal note thank my devoted and beloved wife, for her support in all my political travails. She has been the wind beneath my sails, as her prayers have propelled me and strengthened me when all else failed.

I thank the members of my management team (The Permanent Secretary, and the Management Team as well as all staff of the Ministry) for their support and cooperation. The lessons I have learned are useful for my tomorrow. I thank those who defended us but we thank more those who persecuted us, for they helped to bring out our character.

I have saved the last of my thanks for the best — The chief Accounting Officer of the Ministry as well as Head of Ministry’s Agencies the bulwark behind the industry. I bow out; I must express my debt of gratitude to you all. I personally remain grateful to you.

The incoming Minister will find all necessary documents required to take off and understand the Ministry. Government is continuous and records are the vital link. As I prepare to vacate the seat I had occupied for about four years, I leave with the deep joy that comes from a high sense of accomplishment; the firm satisfaction that I came with a determination and I am leaving highly fulfilled because I tried to do my best for the sector to any and all that came my way.

I pursued our projects with great zeal within the financial space available. Whatever is left undone is for those taking over from us.

Ladies and gentlemen, it was a great honour and privilege to have served the nation at this time, but there are times and seasons and having run my course, and in obedience to the Constitution and the President , I would gladly step aside but remain eternally indebted to Federal Government headed by President Buhari.

This is a long journey, but I am confident in the NEXT LEVEL the sector will witness remarkable growth. All hope is not lost. Stay strong, by the grace of God, the sector will indeed be a cash-cow. I urge you to be patient and keep faith with the present administration.

I am not in doubt that Allah has blessed this ICT /telecom sector and I pray that it may please Him to continue to shower His blessings, mercy and protection upon us all. Permit me to place on record the excellent relationship the the Permanent Secretary and the Directors in the ministry as well as Head of our agencies have accorded to me. If I have succeeded in making us a united family, I say All praise be to Allah, the Lord of mankind.

I appreciate you all for your patience and your prayers. May Allah reward you abundantly and bless you in His own way, Amin.

Finally, I ask that anyone I have in one way or the other offended be gracious enough to forgive. I never came as perfectionists and digital native to the sector. I have been just as frail as any other human being. I had exercised my Oath and Allegiance on behalf of nation and in loyalty to Mr. President. The best intent could have been misconstrued. To such persons, I render apologies beyond words. May Allah forgive my mistakes.

Thank you all and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.