By Technology Times Reporter
Lagos. November 3, 2012: The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has appealed to the Senate to dump the Nigerian Communications Satellite (NigComSat) Bill saying that moves for autonomy by the government-owned satellite service company will undermine growth in the communications sector.
NCC, the nation’s telecoms regulator says plans by NigComSat to push the Bill through will portend great danger for successes recorded in the telecoms sector as it would amount to rewriting the rules of the game by the government.
Ministry of Communication Technology, the supervisory Ministry of NigComSat as well as the Ministry of Science and Technology have also criticised the Bill urging the Senate to discontinue its consideration.
Okechukwu Itanyi, Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, NCC, who made the observation at the recent made the submission to the joint public hearing by the Senate Committee on Communications and Science and Technology expressed the telecoms regulator’s strong opposition to the NigComSat Bill.
The runs very contradictory to existing telecoms laws and would be inimical to the stability of the sector if passed into law, Itanyi told the forum.
“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 says.
According to NCC, which cites that NigComSat is currently a licensee of the telecoms regulator, a privatised NigComSat can seek any licence it wishes to operate to provide whatever service it intends to provide from the regulator and
Itanyi who wondered what difference the Bill will deliver to the company says that it is already interpreted as a bad omen for the telecoms industry and is tantamount to the National Assembly issuing telecoms licenses to government agencies.
If the latter step is taken, it will run contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, says the regulator which lines up with the Ministries of Communications Technology as well as Science and Technology to oppose the move.
Itanyi cites nine Sections of the Bill that is contradictory to 2003 Act from same National Assembly and indicates that the provisions represent overwhelming contradictions including powers being proposed to allow NigComSat to manage and operate frequency bands; design and operate 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.
He adds that “Section 122 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.”
The NCC Executive Commissioner says that 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, a contradiction of section 90 of NCA 2003m that gives the Commission the exclusive competence over competition matters in the Nigerian Communications market”, he adds.
NCC observes that some provisions including the section that would allow NigComSat to operate its current services on commercial basis, like transponder leasing, is trite as the company currently operates those services as a licensee of the telecoms regulator.
The telecoms regulator says that the provision that it would engage in activities that would enhance the space industry in Nigeria is also vague and subject to several interpretations by the NCA 2003.
The NIGCOMSAT Bill is conflict of the Public Procurement Act 2007 that provides for approval conditions and limits for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) on one hand and duplicates the core function of the National Agency for Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) thereby contradicting NASRDA 2010 Act.
NCC cites this as “an invitation to multiplicity of regulations and legislations.”
The regulator says it is also vehemently opposed to the section that intends to empower NigComSat with the duty of international co-operation on communications satellite technology including but limited to membership of the International telecommunications Union citing that the Section contradicts the provisions of the existing laws that empowers the Commission to perform those duties.
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 licence from the Commission, hence it would constitute a duplication of regulations in the country, NCC says.
According to Itanyi, the Section that gives empowers 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 is also opposed by the telecoms regulator as “this provision gives unlimited, inequitable, and unfettered powers to the corporation, which makes it ambiguous as subject to many interpretations.”
Itanyi called the attention of the lawmakers to the Section indicating that NigComSat would work in collaboration with other government agencies such as the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF) noting that the Fund is an organ established by the NCA 2003 and funded by NCC and should not be isolated contrary to the existing laws as the NigComSat Bill intends.