By Olubunmi Adeniyi
Lagos December 13, 2012: The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says it has okayed new rules for disconnecting operators that default in meeting their interconnect payment obligations as part of measures to ensure sustainable growth in the nation’s telecoms sector.
Eugene Juwah, Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, says that the telecoms regulator had on November 30, this year signed new guidelines that broadly speeds up the process of cutting off operators that have accumulated interconnect debts and hopefully usher in a new regime of corporate governance in the telecoms sector.
He said this today at a forum organised in Lagos to address the problems of interconnect indebtedness facing players in the telecoms sector which recorded an impressive turnout by players across the industry ecosystem.
The telecoms regulator had on November 30 this year signed the new ‘Guidelines on Procedure for Granting of Approval to Disconnect Telecommunication Operators’, Juwah told the forum.
He explains that over time NCC has observed that some operators take advantage of the Guidelines on Procedure for Granting of Approval to Disconnect Telecommunication Operators by deliberately refusing to promptly discharge their financial obligations towards their interconnect partner.
Juwah notes that the new document was necessary because the existing one was approved since 2004, saying that this is very important in order to facilitate debt payment among interconnect partners.
According to NCC chief, the provisions of these guidelines have taken into consideration the disconnection of all operators, including interconnect exchanges and has shortened the process for granting approval for disconnection.
He said that this was possible because of the processes that had to be followed before the Commission could authorise the disconnection of an operator.
Juwah adds that several operators had also noted that Interconnect Exchanges had also become a major part of the problem, adding that they now owe other operators interconnection charges, thus compounding the problem they were meant to alleviate.
NCC has particularly noted the problem has continued to escalate and the current cumulative debt profile in the industry is worrisome and if the continued high interconnection indebtedness is left unchecked, it will impact negatively on the industry, Juwah says.
According to him, the provisions of the new guidelines have taken into consideration the disconnection of all operators, including interconnect exchanges, and shortened the process for granting approval for disconnection.
“This is a measure to ensure that interconnection indebtedness is not detrimental to the effective administration of viable telecommunication businesses,” he says.
The forum was largely attended by top executives of telecoms companies, top management staff of telecoms companies, telecoms industry stakeholders and industry analysts.
Speaking further on the issue, Yetunde Akinloye, Assistant Director, Legal and Regulatory Services, NCC, says that interconnection was critical as it enabled subscribers to communicate across and within networks.
Akinloye assures that the new guidelines would promote public confidence and ensure stability, transparency, competition, innovation and growth in the telecoms industry.
Also speaking at the forum, Stephen Bello, ex-Acting EVC of NCC lists the causes of high incidence of indebtedness in the Nigerian telecoms industry to include poor corporate management, diversion of telecoms revenue to private investments in other sectors and poorly-drafted interconnection agreement.