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2.3GHz: Dark Spots, Intrigues Threaten Licenses

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Air of solemnity pervaded the telecom industry last weekend as stakeholders wait with cautious optimism government’s reaction to the landmark judgment which ordered the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to release the 2.3 GHz band license won by Mobitel Nigeria Ltd at last year’s licensing round of the national frequencies, Nigeria CommunicationsWeek can now reveal.

The court presided over by Justice Mohammed Garba Umar declared as illegal, null and void, the revocation and seizure of the licence issued to Mobitel, and ordered its immediate release.

Umar declared “I hereby grant all the reliefs sought by the applicant in this case and order the defendant to release the licence it seized from the company.” In simple terms, the court ruling asserted that nothing was wrong with the licensing of national frequencies.

Generally, stakeholders described the judgment as a watershed and said it would pave way for the broadband revolution considered the next big thing in the industry.

As they spoke, signs of apprehension are visible particularly with the litany of unresolved issues that triggered in the first place the almost one year of riotous controversies.

The judgment would have meant an end to the long drawn battle by Mobitel and three others to operate in the 2.3GHz frequency band considered very important in the race leading up to broadband revolution.

The frequency helps operators provide mobile WiMAX services that are potentially much more transformative than any lone technological item and it is the next cash cow for financially haemorrhaging telcos.

“Ordinarily, the court judgment would have been end of story because government and its various agencies are the same one and ten piece, but we are in a country where executive recklessness and selfish interpretations are given to every situation. The judgment has even thrown the process into further confusion,” said John Owubokiri, Nigeria CommunicationsWeek in-house legal expert.

An industry chief who does not want to be named urged all parties to respect the ruling and save the industry from digital anarchy.

Bekele Tadesse, former country director of Aviat Networks (formerly Harris Stratex Nigeria) however hailed the judiciary for its courage describing the development as “ a breakthrough”

“We are about to witness another big revolution, the first was voice, now we are entering broadband and this will have profound impact on lives and the economy in general,” Tadesse added.
But Owubokori said that the matter is far from over adding that “I can assure you that even if the judgment is respected, there are internal politics of who issues the licenses. They forget the pain they are inflicting on all of us by the continued bickering over the issue.”

NCC is charged with issuing licences, Ernest Ndukwe, the outgoing executive vice chairman of the commission, will complete his 5-year two tenure in a matter of days.

Already, there is pressure to ensure that the new EVC of the commission completes the licensing rounds.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek gathered that if the matter still remains unresolved, fresh investment in the sector estimated at some $4 billion as well thousands of new jobs that will be created by the new operators would also have to wait.

From the look of things, it is certain the issuance of the licenses will wait no thanks to government taciturnity.

Almost a week after the judgment, government is yet to issue any statement or appeal the judgment leaving the industry in utter confusion.

It would be recalled that President Umar Musa Yar’Adua cancelled the licensing round at the height of the claims and counter charges between the NCC and the office of Prof. Dora Akunyili, former minister of Information and Communications. Her ministry was then supervising the NCC before it was transferred to the ministry of state in the wake of re-delineation of duties of federal ministries.

The licensing round become embroiled in controversy at the close of the bid when three companies including Mobitel Limited, Spectranet and Galaxy Wireless were said to have met the obligations and later NCC claimed that Galaxy Wireless did not pay up as at when due and allegedly attempted to replace it with Multilinks-Telkom.

Mobitel came under special focus after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) claimed that NCC had no statutory power to grant Mobitel or any telecommunications outfit waiver for spectrum or operations fees.

The telecom company was allegedly granted a waiver of N242million between May and October, 2008 after its former shareholders paid N500million out of a total of N746 million owed for outstanding spectrum and other operations fees.

The EFCC also brought in Ndukwe for questioning over the said waiver.

Mobitel said immediately then that “The management of the old Mobitel applied officially for and officially received a waiver in respect of fees and levies attributable to the three year period when the company was non-operational. And all this happened before the new management of Mobitel took over reins of the company on the 14th of November, 2008.”

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek gathered that Mobitel then dragged Akunyili, alongside her ministry, and the Attorney General of the Federation to court for upsetting the licensing process of national frequencies in the 2.3 GHz band conducted by the NCC which was also joined in the suit.

 

 


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AfriLabs, Korea-Africa Foundation in Strategic Partnership to Boost African Innovation

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African hubs network AfriLabs has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Korea-Africa Foundation for a strategic partnership aimed at driving innovation and economic growth across the continent.

AfriLabs is a network organisation that is committed to driving innovation and entrepreneurship on the continent by bringing together technology hubs, startups, investors, and other key stakeholders in the ecosystem.

Having recently announced the admission of 16 new hubs, AfriLabs now has a network of 478 hubs across 260 cities in 53 African nations.

The Korea-Africa Foundation, meanwhile, aims to serve as a platform for collaboration between the private and public sectors, and to strengthen exchange and cooperation with African countries.

The collaboration between the two aims to bridge the gap between Korean and African startups by leveraging each other’s expertise and resources. This will be achieved through the exchange of insights on youth development, the launch of joint research initiatives, and the fostering of a dynamic ecosystem that cultivates talent and entrepreneurial spirit in both regions.

“At AfriLabs, we are dedicated to unlocking Africa’s full potential and generating wealth through strategic alliances. This partnership with the Korea-Africa Foundation unlocks a treasure trove of opportunities for startups, granting them access to a global network, invaluable resources, and unparalleled industry knowledge.

“Together, we will empower the next generation of African innovators and entrepreneurs, paving the way for sustainable development and a thriving economy,” said Anna Ekeledo, executive director of AfriLabs.


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$750m World Bank Loan:  FG May Reintroduce Telcoms, Gambling Taxes

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Federal government may reintroduce the controversial telecom tax and other fiscal measures to fulfill one of the conditions for The World Bank’s fresh $750 million loan to Nigeria.

$750m World Bank Loan:  FG May Reintroduce Telcoms, Gambling Taxes

Experts have however strongly opposed new taxes, calling them harmful to the sector’s survival and the larger economy.

But The World Bank in programme appraisal document, dated May 17, 2024, on the loan disbursement to Nigeria, said that $750 million loan to Nigeria will support the federal government’s policy reforms.

A copy of the plan’s document posted on the World Bank website indicated that the government might reintroduce the excises on telecom services, and EMT levy on electronic money transfers through the Nigerian Banking System among other taxes.

Recall that on June 13, Wale Edun, minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy, announced the approval of two financial support packages by the World Bank valued at $2.25 billion.

The loan consists of $1.5 billion for Nigeria’s reforms for economic stabilisation to enable transformation (RESET) development policy financing program (DPF) and $750 million for Nigeria’s accelerating resource mobilisation reforms (ARMOR) program-for-results (PforR).

In the programme appraisal document, the World Bank said the ARMOR programme contains revenue policy measures such as raising pro-health taxes on tobacco, and alcohol.

The Bretton Woods institution also said the programme contains the introduction of taxes on online betting and gambling, as well as new excise on telecommunication services.

Experts have however warned that these taxes would have severe consequences for investment and the operational viability of telecom companies.

According to them, higher taxes would hinder digitalization efforts, which are crucial for economic growth.

The proposed tax measures, according to the industry, are not only damaging to the telecom sector but also to the broader economy.

 

 


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EFCC, Flutterwave to Establish Cybercrime Centre for Security of Transactions

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Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Flutterwave, unicorn payments technology company have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), to establish and a state-of-the-art Cybercrime Research Centre.

EFCC, Flutterwave to Establish Cybercrime Centre for Security of Transactions

Areas of focus of the centre include advanced fraud detection and prevention, policy development, as well as youth empowerment.

The fintech company with fortunes worth over $1bn headquartered in San Francisco with footprints in Nigeria and other African countries said the centre would also provide a “sustainable lifeline to youths across the country”.

To this effect, the Silicon Valley-based company signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the anti-graft agency in Abuja.

Ola Olukoyede, chairman, EFCC; Olugbenga Agboola, founder, Flutterwave; Christopher Gray, director of Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI); and other senior officials from both the EFCC and the FBI witnessed the signing of the MoU

Specifically, the MoU was signed by Mohammadu Hammajoda, secretary, EFCC and Agboolaof Flutterwave.

Olukoyede said, “This partnership marks a significant leap forward in our efforts to combat financial crimes and ensure a secure financial landscape for Nigerians. The Cybercrime Research Centre will significantly enhance our capabilities to prevent, detect, and prosecute financial crimes.”

On his part, Agboola said, “This initiative underscores our commitment to creating a fraud-free financial ecosystem and leading the charge in safeguarding transactions across Africa.

“We applaud the EFCC’s relentless efforts to combat internet fraud and other illicit activities in the financial sector.”

The Cybercrime Research Centre, to be established at the new EFCC Academy in Abuja, would serve as a hub for advanced research, training, and capacity building in the fight against financial crimes.

Areas of focus of the centre include advanced fraud detection and prevention, collaborative research and policy development, youth empowerment and capacity building, technological advancement and resource enablement, among other key areas.

“Advanced Fraud Detection and Prevention: Developing and implementing cutting-edge technologies to detect and prevent financial fraud. The centre will offer comprehensive training for law enforcement and industry professionals to combat modern financial crimes effectively.

“Collaborative Research and Policy Development: Engaging in joint research initiatives and policy formulation to enhance the understanding and regulation of financial crime. The centre will provide a platform for the exchange of ideas and best practices between the public and private sectors.

“Youth Empowerment and Capacity Building: Providing high-end training and research opportunities for 500 youths, equipping them with the skills needed to navigate and excel in the digital economy.

“Technological Advancement and Resource Enablement: Creating a repository of advanced tools, technologies, and resources to support financial crime investigations, including protocols for addressing emerging threats such as cryptocurrency-related crimes,” the statement concluded.

Birthed in 2016 by Agboola, fondly referred to as GB, Flutterwave, with its corporate headquarters in San Francisco and operational head office in Lagos State, grew within a short time, penetrating the African market with customisable payments applications through its unique Application Programming Interface.

 

 


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