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Fresh Headaches for Rural Telephony Project

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The inability of ministry of Communications Technology to secure certificate of concurrence from the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) is delaying the conclusion of the National Rural Telephony Project (NRTP) meant to provide telecommunications services to the rural dwellers and communities, Nigeria CommunicationsWeek has learnt.

The certificate of concurrence or so-called certificate of no objection will mean that ICRC- the national governing body for public private partnership (PPP) processes is in agreement with the move to hand over the project to new investors.

Also, Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) another government agency this time responsible for harmonizing the existing government policies and practices by regulating, setting standards and developing the legal framework and professional capacity for public procurement in Nigeria has also insisted on certificate of concurrence before it can seek approval from the federal executive council.

Engr. John Ayodele, director, Posts and Telecommunications in the ministry of Communications Technology, told Nigeria CommunicationsWeek, that the ministry is desirous to conclude the transaction.

Ayodele said that the delay in securing the certificate from ICRC was due to the recent change in the management of the commission.

He stated that with the inauguration a new board, the ministry hopes to secure the certificate from the ICRC soon.

Ayodele, said that ICRC had earlier refused to give the ministry certificate of concurrence, arguing that the transaction was carried out before the commission was established which makes it difficult to evaluate the project.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek gathered that the National Rural Telephony Project, the little successful $200 million project was conceived in 2001 to take telephony services to the rural areas.

The project has however been caught in a web of confusion, claims and counter charges with fingers pointing left and right.

Apart from the certificate of no objection; paucity of funds as well as nonchalant attitude of government and her supervising agencies have also conspired to hobble the project.

The project, inaugurated under former President Obasanjo’s first term in office, was to cover 218 Local Government Areas (LGA) in the first phase and provide over 636,256 Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), lines in the 774 LGAs and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in the second phase to bridge the digital divide between the urban and rural areas.

Three Chinese companies– ZTE Corporation, Huawei and Shagai Bell – were awarded the contract at the sum of $200 million.

The Federal Government had borrowed the above amount from the China Export and Import (EXIM) Bank, while it provided 15 per cent counterpart funding of N5 billion for the execution of the project.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek gathered that the Chinese companies failed to deliver on the project prompting the federal government to transfer the first phase of the project to five indigenous telecommunications companies namely: Key Communications Limited, Suburban Broadband Limited, Voicewares Network Limited, Gicell Wireless Limited and Hezonic Limited.

In the new arrangement, Key Communications won the Ibadan Zone with a $38 million bid, while Suburban Broadband bid with $140.5 million to manage the Federal Capital Territory and Kaduna zones.

Voiceware Networks bid with $30 million to manage the Enugu Zone, while Hezonic and Gicell Wireless bid with $30 million and $20 million to manage Enugu and Bauchi.

They were to build, operate and maintain (BOM) the project in different zones under the model of a Lease, Operate and Own (LOO) framework.

They were supposed to operate the networks for a period of 10 years within which they would pay a specified amount of money to the government.

But the contractors are yet to commence work some four years after the contract was awarded.

Irked by the development, the House of Representatives recently mandated its committee on Communications to find out issues delaying the full take of the project.

Engr. Gerry Ekesiani, chief executive officer, Voicewares Networks Limited, one of the operators of the project that won the contract to operate South-east and Benue exchange, said that stakeholders including: operators and ministry of Communications Technology have engaged in meetings in order to resolve outstanding issues that are delaying full take off of the project.

“We are working progressively. If all parties keep to our agreement, operators of NRTP will be able to roll out service this year,” he said.

Voicewares Networks boss stated that continued delay of the project is jeopardizing full realization of the project, adding that the 800MGH frequency allocated to them is no longer suitable for delivery of broadband and that had it being that the project has taken off the current plan by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to license 2.3Ghz spectrum would have been an opportunity for them to upgrade to 2.3Ghz.

He explained that 2.3Ghz is robust for broadband service delivery which NRTP is designed for.

Ekesiani added that the continued delay in the rollout of services is causing Association of Rural Telephony Operators of Nigeria (ARTON) financial losses while the equipment have become object of vandals and thieves.

He also warned that the equipment may become obsolete by the time the final approval is obtained as CDMA 2000 1x technology installed for the project is a legacy.
 


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ipNX, USTDA Ink Partnership Deal to Develop Nigeria’s ICT Infrastructure

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ipNX, Nigeria’s pioneering and leading information, communications and technology (ICT) company and the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) have signed a partnership deal that will further support the development of Nigeria’s ICT and broadband infrastructure and help ipNX expand its fibre-optic network to more than 200,000 residences in Lagos and other locations, including Abuja and Port Harcourt.

A virtual signing ceremony that signalled the beginning of this far reaching relationship between the two parties was held on Thursday, September 17, 2020.

Through this innovative initiative, the USTDA is supporting ipNX to promote inclusive, secure and sustainable connectivity across the nation.

The agreements were made possible as a result of several engagements between the USTDA delegation to Nigeria and the leadership of ipNX; and will advance the goals of the recently updated Nigerian Broadband Plan.

At the Signing Ceremony, Ejovi Aror, group managing director of ipNX, said: “We believe that world-class connectivity and broadband internet access will be pivotal to the digital transformation and socio-economic development of Nigeria.

‘We are very positive that this project will play a crucial role in making our belief a reality.”

Aror added that with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the case for a vibrant ICT sector has never been stronger and the new partnership will bring ipNX a step closer to achieving its mission to continually leverage technology to create innovative solutions that help mankind thrive, while making a crucial impact to the lives of Nigerians across the country.

Mary Beth Leonard, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, said’ “These projects will support the development of Nigeria’s telecoms infrastructure and help to achieve the goals of the National Broadband Plan.

“The U.S. Government has committed significant resources to improving telecoms infrastructure in Nigeria and this support is crucial as we believe that investment in critical ICT projects will strengthen the resiliency outlined in Nigeria’s economic sustainability plan.”

Also present at the virtual event, the Director, Technical Standards and Network Integrity of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Engr. Bako Wakil, who spoke on behalf of the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, said: “The support this grant will provide to the telecommunications sector, in particular broadband, is in line with the National Digital Strategy and the National Broadband Plan.

“The NCC would like to congratulate ipNX as it shows the company’s integrity and commitment to be selected for this grant”.

ipNX also revealed that it intends to continue to work with USTDA beyond the preliminary stage, to execute many more projects into the future that will bring about the digital transformation and socio-economic development of major cities in Nigeria in alignment with the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy.

With their partnership, both parties fully agree that further development of the nation’s broadband infrastructure is key to unlocking the potential promised by Nigeria’s digital economy.

According to the World Bank’s ‘Nigeria Digital Economy Diagnostic Report’ released in 2019, Broadband is a key enabler to harness the digital economy transformation and high-speed broadband has the potential to accelerate Nigeria’s socio-economic development.

 


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Manfa, ANSICTA Boss Pledges to Collaborate with NITDA for Establishment of Zonal Office in Anambra State

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Mr Theo Manfa, managing director/chief executive officer, Anambra State Information and Communication Technology Agency, (ANSICTA) has hinted that they are ready to collaborate with National Information Technology Development Agency, (NITDA) for the establishment of the agency’s South-East Zonal office in the State.

 

He stated this when he led ANSICTA delegation to NITDA’s head office in Abuja recently.

 

Mr Manfa explained that the call for special requests by the state is necessitated by the fact that the state “has long been known as a home of innovation and entrepreneurship, through the various markets like Onitsha and Nnewi and the plethora of locally produced goods they spawned over time.”

Dr Vincent Vincent Olatunji, Director E-Government and Regulation NITDA receiving an award on behalf of the DG from Theo Manafa MD ANSICTA

He said that innovation and entrepreneurship are important elements to drive the digital economy which the nation is striving to create adding that the state has been watching with keen interest the activities of Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy and NITDA which necessitated the intended partnership.

 

He requested NITDA’s partnership with ANSICTA in building an ICT Hub in Anambra State; hosting a NITDA regional office; hosting NITDA events and programs as a State and region; trainings and Skills development programs of NITDA where the State hopes to train 40,000 residents in the next 2 years in Digital skills; establishment of cooperation on the Nigeria Government Enterprise Architecture (NGEA) and the provision of the Unity Board where 150 units were requested for a program for secondary schools in Anambra.

 

ANSICTA also presented an award to the Director General for his “Outstanding Achievements in Driving theDigital Economy” which was received by Dr. Vincent Olatunji on behalf of the DG.

 

Dr. Olatunji responded along with comments from some of the Directors and said NITDA would be glad to cooperate with the State.

L-R: Theo Manafa, MD/CEO of ANSICTA, Inuwa Kashifu Abdullahi, DG of NITDA and Michael Orekyeh, COO of ANSICTA

He said it was gratifying to note that Anambra State now has an ICT Agency as Gov Willie Obiano had visited NITDA 6 years ago and the agency had worked with the State in developing an ICT policy for Anambra.

 

The success of that exercise is the take off of the agency (ANSICTA) which is the execution arm of the policy developed by NITDA.

 

He further said ANSICTA was by the speech of its MD really in tune with the affairs and mandates of NITDA and stated that ANSICTA should make a formal application for the things requested at this meeting will be looked into by Management for approval by the Director General.

 

He also thanked ANSICTA for recognizing the hard work of the DG through the award they presented, which he said was most encouraging.

Michael Orekyeh; chief operating officer of ANSICTA was part of the delegation from Anambra State. while the Director General of NITDA, Malam Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi was represented by the Director E-Government and Regulation, Dr. Vincent Olatunji; Director Office of ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship – OIIE, Dr. (Mrs.) Amina Sambo Magaji; Deputy Director of IT Infrastructure, Dr. Saidu Kumo; SA Technical to the DG, Dr. Mohammed Yahaya; Corporate Strategy Department, Dr. Taofik Yekini and other Directors and Key Management Staff.

 

 

 


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Patanmi, Danbatta, Others Set for 2020 Virtual Internet Governance Forum

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Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), and other key players in the country’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector are set for the 2020 virtual Nigeria Internet Governance Forum (vNIGF).

 

The 9th edition of the annual event, which will hold virtually this year due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, is scheduled for September 23-24, 2020 with the theme “Achieving Inclusive Digital Economic Development in the Post-COVID19 Era.”

 

The vNIGF 2020 will be chaired by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr. Istifanus Musa.

 

The organizers in a statement, observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the critical importance of digital technologies in fostering inclusive national development and this has necessitated the thematic focus of the conference, where Nigeria Internet Governance Forum Multi-stakeholder Advisory Group (NIGF-MAG), the body of organisers of the event, will come together to chat the way forward, as a community of Nigeria’s Internet ecosystem.

 

The theme of this year’s event amplifies how the focus of the NIGF-MAG, from both the business and policy communities, is shifting from shaping a resilient Internet for societal sustainability to understanding the effect and impact of COVID-19 on individual and corporate lives and activities, especially with regard to women and youths.

 

While the NIGF-MAG has assured of a good virtual experience at the programme, it said that the virtual conference will be preceded by the Youth Internet Governance Forum (YIGF) and Women IGF (WIGF) on September 23, 2020, while the main event at which Dr. Pantami will deliver a keynote address on the theme holds on September 24, 2020.

 

Aside Pantami and Danbatta, organisers have also confirmed a lineup of eminent speakers for the vNIGF 2020 who will participate at high-level panel discussions on the thematic focus of “2020 to 2030 Digital Economy Strategy.”

 

The speakers are Founder and Chief Executive Officer, MainOne, Ms Funke Opeke; Chair of the Global IGF MAG, Anriette Esterhuysen; Coordinator, West Africa IGF, Mrs. Mary Uduma; Prof. Adenike Osofisan of University of Ibadan; and Dr. Nnenna Ifeanyi-Ajufo of Swansea University.

 

Others include a digital policy expert at Google, Mrs. Titi Akinsanmi; President and Chief Executive Officer, High Tech Centre for Nigerian Women and Youths, Dr. Wunmi Hassan; Coordinator, YouthIGF-NG, Uffa Modey, among others.

 

Members of the public from the private sector, government, civil society organisations and inter-governmental organisations, academia as well as Internet end-users are encouraged to register and attend the event live on the NIGF event website on https://2020.igf.ng and across its social media platforms, @NigeriaIGF.

 

According to the organisers, registration and attendance is free. Upon registration, participants will receive the event notifications and updates, free access to the digital edition of the event’s report and more.

 

The NIGF-MAG comprises stakeholders from the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy (FMoCDE), NCC, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA), Internet Society Nigeria Chapter (ISOC NG), DigitalSENSE Africa Media (DSA), in partnership with other local Internet stakeholders.

 

 

 


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