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Tax, broadband top telecom agenda for Incoming Nigerian President,Tinubu

Ajibola Olude, secretary of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), has said that the incoming president will have to tackle many challenges facing the Information and Communication Technology sector, including excessive tax control, Right of Way (RoW) cost reduction, job creation, and connectivity, to tap its full growth potential.

According to Ajibola, the sector in recent times has been a major source of revenue and growth to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), contributing more than the oil sector, which is Nigeria’s biggest source of revenue. Over the last six years, the sector has added a nine percent growth to GDP, according to Andersen Nigeria.

Going by the recently concluded INEC results which declares Bola Tinubu, the candidate of the All Progressive Congress, as the new incoming President elect, much is expected from his administration based on his manisfesto promises: “A Tinubu administration will strive to create one million new jobs in the ICT sector within its first 24 months by deploying new technologies that can fast-track business growth and diversification.”

He said he would implement policies that would train and build capacity among Nigeria’s large and youthful population to help offer outsourcing services just as India has done. This we are optimistic about says Ajibola.

The secretary of ATCON reemphasized the need for the incoming government to pay adequate attention and focus on the sector, especially in the area of connectivity, which is a key driver to other sectors of the economy, and task the state government not to charge above the N145 stipulated ROW charges.

He said: “The main thing we expect from the incoming government is that the federal government needs to appeal to the state government that the cost being charged for RoW must be N145 per linear metre. When you look at the cost of energy and RoW in Nigeria, it remains very high. There is a need for all states to buy into the harmonised RoW, which is N145. If the cost is N145, unlike when it is like N1,000 to N1,500, meter will be more money left to buy equipment and employ more people.

“With N1,500, you can get 10 linear meters but when it is reduced to N145, it means that you will be doing 10 times what you were doing before, which means that the capital outlook for laying cables and others will further channel to deepen broadband penetration.”

In the area of human capital development in the sector, Olude said there is a need to sustain development, which can be achieved by ensuring that the human capital (tech talents) formation is not discouraged to leave the country. “When you have the technology but no human to drive it, then it is as good as not having the technology in place. Those that are working in that sector must be encouraged to stay pushing in order not to leave the county.”

According to the ATCON secretary, many tech talents have left the country over the years because of poor remuneration. He said the incoming government should ensure the sector is not overburdened with tax, so investors who have invested in ICT will get adequate rewards and continue investing.

He said, “The incoming government should also encourage the implementation of infrastructure in the state. The last government was meant to implement the seven geographical locations which were given to Infraco licenses but along the way, those who won that licenses were not given the required subvention by the federal government, and that led to the government not implementing Infracos. NCC which represents the government should try as much as possible to implement it.

“The incoming government should also not further divide the sector. We have heard about NITDA trying to take some of the goals that are already being pursued by NCC. This will further subdivide the industry. We expect NITDA to stay on its lane, while the NCC stays on its lane.”

Also, Frank Ezeji, CEO of TDS Hi-Tech Solution, said the incoming government must devise a means to provide access to affordable and high-speed internet, considering the population of the country.

Citing a 2022 report by Statista, Ezeji said half of the total Nigerian population are active internet users.

According to Statista, Nigeria is ranked as the seventh country with the lowest-cost mobile internet with an average cost of $0.70 for one GB in 2022.

“Nigeria’s next president should prioritize providing access to affordable, high-speed internet to most Nigerians,” Ezeji said.

He said the government must also intensify efforts to curb cyber security threats by creating effective cyber security measures to protect citizens’ sensitive data and critical infrastructure.

He said Nigeria needs inventions like cloud and edge computing, artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, and cyber security, which are mostly dominant discussions within this sector.

“If Nigeria wants to catch up with these varying trends, it must first take cognizance of the changes and enact policies that promote digital inclusion. More digital transformation needs to be activated, to drive awareness from the grassroots to the national level,” he said.

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