Telecom regulatory authority, the 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 the 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.
“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 destabilize and distort the achievements which the industry has recorded in terms of regulatory certainty, investor encouragement and healthy competition”, he said.
In line with the clammour by the Ministry of Communications and other stakeholders, Mr. Itanyi said a privatized NIGCOMSAT can seek any license it wishes to operate to provide whatever service it intends to provide from the regulator and that 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 also submitted that some of the Bill that are contradictory to 2003 Act from same National Assembly, and indicated that the provision on it 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, teleports, transponders, earth stations, terminal, antenna and frequency band is an overwhelming contradiction.
He said that “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”, he said.
Mr. 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.
“By placing the company as both the regulator and operator, the Bill has the potential of distorting the market, discouraging competition and stifling consumer choice of service in the telecommunications industry, and is contradiction of section 90 of NCA 2003 that gives the Commission the exclusive competence over competition matters in the Nigerian Communications market”, he said.
He said that some of the provisions including the section that would allow NIGCOMSAT to operate its current services on commercial basis, like transponder leasing, is trite as NIGCOMSAT currently operates those services as a licensee of the NCC, while the provision that it would engage in activities that would enhance the space industry in Nigeria is vague and subject to several interpretations by the NCA 2003.
Mr. Itanyi also pointed out that the NIGCOMSAT Bill is in conflict with the Public Procurement Act 2007, which provided for approval conditions and limits for Ministries, Departments and Agencies on one hand, and duplicates the core functions of the National Agency for Space Research and Development Agency, NARSDA, thereby contradicting NARSDA 2010 Act. This he said, is an invitation to multiplicity of regulations and legislations.
The Commission is also vehemently opposed to the section that intends to empower NIGCOMSAT with the duty of international cooperation on communications satellite technology, including but limited to membership of the International Telecommunications Union, ITU, arguing that this section contradicts the provisions of the existing laws that empowers the Commission to perform those duties.
Mr. Itanyi also submitted that some of the provisions in the bill regarding the activities of NIGCOMSAT corporation would also require the type-approval certificate of the Commission, as well as Sales and Installation License, hence would amount to a duplication of regulations in the country. In the section that gives powers to NIGCOMSAT to purchase or otherwise acquire or takeover all or any of the assets, business, company, firm or person in furtherance of any business engaged in by the Corporation, Mr. Itanyi said “this provision gives unlimited, inequitable, and unfettered powers to the corporation, which makes it ambiguous and subject to many interpretations.
In the section which indicated that NIGCOMSAT would work in collaboration with other government agencies, such as the Universal Provision Fund, USPF, Mr. Itanyi alerted the senators to the fact that the USPF is an organ established by the NCA 2003, and funded by the Nigerian Communications Commission, and should not be isolated in contradiction to existing laws as the NIGCOMSAT bill intends.