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House probes NCC over telecom fund, poor network

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The House of Representatives has resolved to investigate the Nigerian Communications Commission over how it has utilised the Universal Service Provision Fund, an allocation of 2.5 per cent of the annual turnover of the mobile telecommunication network operators as annual licence renewal fee.

At the plenary on Thursday, the House specifically resolved to set up an ad hoc committee to “investigate the failure/inability of the NCC to promote widespread availability and usage of mobile telecommunication network services throughout Nigeria, including the underserved and un-served areas.”

The panel is to report back within four weeks for further legislative action.

A member of the House, Mark Gbillah, in amending the motion, prayed the House to add an investigation of the accruals into and utilisation of the USPF by the NCC since the inception of the fund.”

The lawmakers unanimously adopted the motion as amended

Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, set up a panel to carry out the probe, which is made up of Messrs Bamidele Salam (Chairman), Jide Jimoh,  Unyime Idem, Aisha Dukku, Sani Bala, Babajide Obanikoro, Abubakar Fulata and Chinedu Ogah, as well as sponsor of the motion, Sergius Ogun.

The motion of urgent public importance was titled, ‘Need to Investigate the Non-Provision of Mobile Telecommunication Network Services to the Underserved and Unserved Areas of Nigeria by the Nigerian Communications Commission Despite the Availability of Universal Service Provision Fund.’

Ogun, while moving the motion, noted that Section 3 of the Nigerian Communications Act, Cap N97, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, established a body known as the Nigerian Communications Commission with the responsibility of regulating the communications sector in Nigeria.

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He also noted that in Section 4 of the Act, Cap N97, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, the NCC is saddled with the responsibility of facilitating investments in and entry into the Nigerian market for provision and supply of communication services, equipment and facilities.

    The lawmaker added that Section 112(1) of the Act gives the NCC the power to consider, design and determine a system which shall promote the widespread availability and usage of network services throughout Nigeria by encouraging the installation of network facilities and the provision of network services to institutions in the unserved and underserved areas of the country, known as the Universal Service Provision.

    He stressed that a community reading of the provisions of Sections 114 and 118 of the Act showed that the structure, governance, administration and control of the Universal Service Provision Fund shall be as determined or domiciled in the NCC.

    Ogun said, “The House is aware that in the wake of the rapid expansions of the Global System of Mobile Communication in Nigeria, most of the mobile telecommunication network operators were reluctant to move to the rural areas owing to business considerations.

    “The House is also aware that the Act empowers the NCC to receive 2.5 per cent of the annual turnover of the mobile telecommunication network operators as annual license renewal fee.

    “The NCC is expected to utilise the funds generated from the contributions of mobile telecommunication network operators, for implementing Universal Access Strategy and Programme in accordance with Federal Government’s policy thereon (as enshrined in Section 4 of the Act).”

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    The lawmaker further noted that the NCC, on its own, decided to contribute 40 per cent of the fund generated from the 2.5 per cent annual turnover from mobile telecommunication network operators, translating to 1 per cent of the annual turnover of the operators to the USPF, a practice he said was common throughout Africa.

    He stressed that the USPF was to be used to build infrastructure in the underserved and un-served areas of Nigeria, “which can subsequently be made available to the mobile telecommunication network operators, who will in turn utilise such infrastructure in serving the areas that are hitherto underserved and un-served.”

    Ogun added, “The first major infrastructure project attempted by the NCC in this regard was the Emergency Response System, which led to the construction of emergency communications centers all over the country, with little or no results, despite the fact that the contract was awarded in millions of dollars with annual fiscal appropriations for the said project.

    “The House is disturbed that the inability of the NCC to utilise the USPF to promote the widespread availability and usage of network services and applications throughout Nigeria, as enshrined in Section 112 of the Nigerian Communications Act, Cap N97, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, is a great disservice to the nation.”

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