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Regulatory Imperatives for Sustaining the Revolution in the Communications Sector



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By Tony Ojobo

The telecommunications industry has undoubtedly witnessed tremendous growth and development in Nigeria. It is a sector that directly impacts every aspect of human life, business, education, governance, family, entertainment, etc. Growth in the industry was slow for several years after Nigerian Independence.

The total telephone subscriptions from Independence in 1960 to 2001 was a paltry 400,000 connected analogue lines, translating to a teledensity of 0.04%. This number of telephone lines was considered inadequate for a population of 126.2 million in 2001, according to the World Bank, when the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) licensed the Digital Mobile Operators.

Before the advent of digital mobile service in the country, applicants for telephone lines waited for years to get a telephone line. The waiting time in some cases was up to ten years. Customers who needed to make international calls went to the international call centre at NECOM House Marina, Lagos, to make such international calls.

As a young Commercial officer in the Nigerian External Telecommunications (NET) Limited in 1982, I witnessed parents from different parts of the country come to NECOM House on Marina, Lagos, to make international calls to their wards overseas. NET Limited Call centre was one of the few locations where customers could make international calls. The only exceptions were some embassies, oil companies and international banks, and a few individuals with International Direct Dialing (IDD) and Alternate Voice and Data (AVD) services.

Generation Zs (people born between 1981 – 1990) and Generation Alpha (born between 2010 – 2020) would find this amusing; it sounds more like a fairy tale. Yes, those were the days we were still in the dark. The situation persisted even after the emergence of the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) in 1985. The military government formed NITEL through the merger of Posts and Telecommunications (P&T), responsible for domestic/national telecommunications services, with NET Limited, responsible for international telecommunications services.

I can vividly recall that at NITEL, Shomolu Exchange, where I was the Business office Manager, the organization processed applications under what was then known as “Capital contribution”, a scheme where applicants contributed various sums of money, depending on location, to get NITEL services extended to their homes and offices.

In realization of the challenges, and the inability of NITEL, as a monopoly, to provide enough telephone services in the country, the then Military government promulgated Decree 75 of 1992, establishing the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) as the industry regulator for telecommunications. The establishment of the NCC set the pace for the deregulation of the sector—the then Minister of Communications’ Engr. Olawale Ige played a vital role in the deregulation exercise. Engr. Ige in the year 2000, eventually became a member of the Board of Commissioners at the NCC.

The Decree specified the following, among others, as the functions of the NCC. Facilitate investments in and entry into the Nigerian market, protect and promote the interest of consumers against unfair practices, and ensure that licensees implement and operate the most efficient and accurate billing system at all times. Other functions include:

  • Promoting fair competition in the communications industry.
  • Protecting communications services facilities.
  • Preventing service providers from misusing market power or anti-competitive and unfair practices, among others.

The Decree further stated the objectives of the Commission to include the promotion and implementation of the national telecommunications policy, establish the regulatory framework for the Nigerian Communications industry and promote the provision of modern, universal, efficient, reliable, affordable, and easily accessible communication services. Some other objectives mandate the Commission to encourage local and foreign investments in the Nigerian communications industry, introduce innovative services and practices in the sector, encourage fair competition, and promote Nigerian participation in the ownership, control, and management of communication companies and organizations.

The Nigerian Communications Act set the above objectives to ensure a vibrant communications sector, with functions and purposes necessary for a potent independent regulator. Industry watchers believe that the Commission’s performance in regulating the industry depends on its ability to align actions with the objectives.

At the return of democratic governance in 1999, the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo was keen on transforming the communications sector. President Obasanjo personally invited investors to invest in the industry during his diplomatic shuttles. Nigeria was smarting from the effect of military governance.

The developed countries were still uncertain of the safety of investments in the country due to prolonged military rule. Some major global telecommunications companies, like Vodafone and others, spurned the invitation, showing a lack of interest in the Nigerian telecommunications market. The international community still viewed the country as a pariah at that time.

Despite the lukewarm attitude received from some international investors, the government was determined to confront these challenges. In a demonstration of its commitment, a Board of Commissioners was constituted for the Nigerian Communications Commission, Chaired by a renowned technocrat, Alhaji Ahmed Joda, and the former President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), a technocrat, an astute engineer, Dr Ernest Ndukwe, FNSE, as the Executive Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive of the Commission. The other members of the Board were Engr. Olawale Ige, former Minister of Communications, Austine Otiji, former MD of NITEL, Engr. Patrick Kentebe, Engr. Shola Taylor, Engr. Isaiah Mohammed, Engr. Zimit, Engr. Don. Udeh, among others.

Ahmed Joda’s Board understood the enormity of the responsibility placed on them and set out to build one of the most respected regulatory bodies in the world. The Board embarked on extensive consultations worldwide with regulators such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States of America and other regulatory bodies worldwide. The Commission also approached the World Bank for assistance and support. It engaged the services of consultants such as Deloitte & Touché, Detecon GmB of Germany, USAID, and Growing Businesses Foundation, among others, to assist with building a strong, independent regulatory body for the communications sector.

Two critical objectives to address were (i) the need for institutional strengthening through the adoption of an appropriate organizational structure and (ii) the engagement of the proper fit of professionals to implement the organizational objectives.

The Board enjoyed the government’s support, which allowed it to operate freely without interference. President Obasanjo’s government respected the regulator’s Independence and did not interfere directly in its regulatory functions. The government of the day had the political will to build a solid and vibrant communications industry.

It neither interfered with the Commission’s recruitment processes nor the regulatory functions of the Commission. The Communications Committees in the National Assembly were very professional and thorough with their oversight functions. All these contributed to the birth of a potent, vibrant, independent regulator.

Topmost on the agenda of the Commission was the licensing of operators to provide services to Nigerians, who long desired communication services. The Board engaged the services Spectrum International Consulting Limited of UK  as the Consultant to advise on the appropriate auction method for the spectrum licenses. Simultaneously the Commission was addressing the institutional strengthening, spectrum auction methodology, and engagement of competent human capital to deliver on the mandate.

Some of the factors that contributed to the success of the various exercises in the Commission include the political will on the part of the federal government to transform the sector, the professionalism of the Board of Commissioners, focused leadership, clarity of vision, and an understanding of the assignment, selfless leadership, a commitment to hiring the best hands, and desire to succeed. To remain a professional regulatory body, the Commission should maintain these tested virtues in its regulatory processes.

The organization must ensure that responsibilities are clear and competence is recognized. The Commission should maintain the six core values of integrity, excellence, professionalism, responsiveness, innovation, and commitment in its oversight of the communications sector.

There is a need to underscore the point that recruitment processes should take cognizance of people who possess the required fit for the job. When regulators compromise on getting the right persons for the job, it leads to a decline in standards and effectiveness.

The actions of the supervising Ministry should not in any way undermine the Independence of the regulator. The Commission should be professional in handling matters that could compromise its Independence and thus weaken the organization’s ability to regulate the sector effectively.

The current data from the communications regulator shows the sector’s growth level. The subscriber base for mobile services as of June 2023 is 223,338,215. Fixed wired/wireless services, 96,913, VoIP 228,553, bringing the total number of subscribers to 223,663,521. Recently the Commission licensed 25 Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) to provide services in the country.

These new licenses issued by the regulator further underscore the maturity of the sector and the opportunities that abound. The revolution in the Fintech space, education, commerce, agriculture, health, security, and entertainment, all enabled by internet technology, cannot be over-emphasized.

The e-enablement in these sectors requires that the regulator should not be hindered from performing its functions. The telecommunications sector, a sub-sector of the ICT sector, which contributed 14.13% to GDP, out of the 17.47% for the entire ICT sector collectively in Q1 2023, should be given its flowers.

The imperative of sustaining these significant milestones in the communication industry is critical. The 22 years of mobile communications in Nigeria have improved the quality of life in commerce, education, security, health, entertainment etc. Digital technology’s impact on Nigerians’ standard of living cannot be over-emphasized. Imagine banking without the internet, the services of online stores such as Konga, Jumia and others.

The introduction of hailing services like Uber, Bolt, and others. What of payment platforms for online transactions, mobile banking, and e-enabled services? There are just too many businesses piggybacking on digital technology. These have happened because the organization’s Board, management and staff laid a solid foundation 22 years ago. The subsequent Boards, management and staff of the Nigerian Communications Commission should continue to build on the labour of these heroes of digital Nigeria.

Sustaining the gains made so far in the sector is the responsibility of all stakeholders, especially the regulator.  The revolution in the digital technology space must continue unabated.

Tony Ojobo, PhD, former Director of Public Affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission, and President African ICT Foundation wrote from Abuja

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Airtel Doubles its 5G Network Coverage in Kenya



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Airtel Kenya has announced major steps in its network expansion, doubling its 5G footprint since mid-2023. The company has expanded its 5G network to cover 39 counties and 285 wards, with over 690 sites operational.

This year, Airtel Kenya aims to add approximately 1000 new sites, with 50% of the rollout already completed.

The expansion focuses on improving indoor coverage in urban areas and extending services to rural regions, particularly in the North Eastern part of the country. Airtel Kenya’s network now covers 89% of the Kenyan population, with a goal to increase this coverage to 94% by the end of 2024.

In response to the growing demand for reliable home internet, Airtel Kenya has launched new Unlimited Home Broadband 5G Data Plans. These plans offer seamless and uninterrupted internet access, making them ideal for streaming, gaming, remote work, and other high-bandwidth activities.

The plans are priced at Kes 3,500/month for 10 Mbps, Kes 5,000/month for 20 Mbps, and Kes 6,500/month for 30 Mbps. The Airtel 5G router, now available for a reduced price of Kes 2,999, features an innovative power backup, ensuring up to 5 hours of connectivity during power outages.

Customers can order the Airtel 5G router and sign up for an Unlimited Data Plan at any Airtel shop, online at Airtel Kenya, or by dialing *400# for home delivery and plan renewals.


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IHS’ Impact on Nigeria’s Digital Transformation, Foreign Direct Investments Drive



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By Blessed Omonose.

Proudly Nigerian Campaign, a private sector initiative promoted by media entrepreneur, Olorogun Elkanah Mowarin, in 2017, was one of the popular efforts to elicit pride in resourceful Nigerians and made-in-Nigeria products and services. The central theme of the campaign was to project Nigeria and Nigerians as a Brand by generating positive narratives about Nigeria and her people.

Today, IHS Nigeria is one notable corporate brand that wears the Proudly Nigerian emblem with gait and a commitment to promote Nigeria as a good brand, despite some challenges the country faces.

Last October, President Bola Tinubu played host to a team of senior management of IHS Nigeria in New York, United States on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly. During the meeting, the Executive Vice President (EVP) and Chief Human Resources Officer, Ayotade Oyinlola, listed the company’s giant strides, including its consistent investments in state-of-the-art communication infrastructure and world-class services that have put Nigeria on a very strong footing in the global telecommunication market.

Oyinlola said at the time, that in an era where connectivity serves as the lifeblood of societies and economies, IHS Towers stands as a beacon of success, demonstrating how a company that was established in Nigeria, in a little over two decades (2001), has grown to become a reckonable multinational telecom infrastructure powerhouse, with footprints in 11 countries across three continents and impacting the lives of over 800 million people.

The team asserted that the company, despite having an expansive global footprint, including a remarkable global tower count of over 40,000 towers across Nigeria, Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Kuwait, Peru, Rwanda, South Africa and Zambia, proudly maintains its Nigerian identity.

In May 2024, IHS Nigeria again proudly carried the Nigerian green-white-green flag to the 2024 Corporate Council on Africa’s 16th U.S.-Africa Business Summit, held at the prestigious Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention, Dallas, Texas, USA. The telecoms infrastructure company, both as co-sponsor and participant at the strategic international summit leveraged the platform to market Nigeria’s limitless opportunities.

The summit – a pivotal moment in the convergence of global leaders, industry titans, and visionary entrepreneurs seeking to unlock Africa’s digital potential and foster sustainable economic growth, was attended by prominent leaders from the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), including Florie Liser, President, and John Olajide, Chairman, representing CCA, as well as members of a strong leadership team from IHS Nigeria including IHS Nigeria’s Chief Operating Officer, Kazeem Oladepo, Dapo Otunla, Chief Corporate Services Officer, and Seye Dosunmu, Chief Financial Officer, respectively.  Mohamad Darwish, Co-Founder & Executive Vice President of IHS Towers and CEO IHS Nigeria, serves as a notable Board member on the Planning and Programs Committee in CCA.

With the increasing influence and power of technology, a high-level dialogue titled, “Unlocking Africa’s Digital Potential – Addressing Challenges and Expanding Opportunities,” opened the discourse where IHS Nigeria showcased its pivotal role in charting a course for Africa’s digital transformation.

In highlighting the company’s commitment to bridging the digital divide and empowering communities across Africa, IHS Nigeria’s COO, Kazeem Oladepo, reeled out the company’s numerous interventions, including investments in school connectivity. He said IHS has unveiled ICT and digital infrastructures aimed at promoting Nigeria’s digital economy, which include the innovation hub at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, in collaboration with the Oyo state government. It also implemented a three-year partnership with the Federal Ministry of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy in support of the government’s Three Million Technical Talent (3MTT) Initiative.

Through its partnership with the Limitless Space Institute, a non-profit education and research organisation based in Houston, Texas, IHS Nigeria is broadening access to space education for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) educators in Nigeria. It also supports UNICEF Nigeria’s School-to-School Connectivity Project and has established notable partnerships with the END Fund, Save the Children, and USAID.

Through its subsidiary company, Global Independent Connect Limited (GICL), IHS has deployed over 13,000km of fiber optics across Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory to deepen nationwide digital connectivity and broadband penetration. Today, over 3,000 towers have been connected on metro fiberacross Nigeria to further increase connectivity and support Nigeria’s growing digital ecosystem. In its resolute commitment to increasing connectivity, especially across rural communities, the company launched a rural telephony solution in 2020. The exclusively solar-powered solution connects the most remote communities in Nigeria to essential 2G and 3G services. To date, 586 rural telephony sites have been established across 25 states, serving over two million Nigerians living in rural and underserved areas.

The session was moderated by Michelle Chivunga, Founder & CEO of Global Policy House, the dialogue brought together luminaries such as H.E. Mogweetsi E.K. Masisi, President of Botswana, and Hon. Nthomeng Majara, Deputy Prime Minister of Lesotho, alongside Hon. Enoh T. Ebong, Director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), and Dr. Thierry Wandji, President & CEO of Cybastion.

During the session on “Invest in Nigeria: Showcasing Investment Opportunities,’’ co-sponsored by IHS Nigeria and moderated by Ekenem Isichei, Program Director at the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), the Ekiti State Governor, Biodun Oyebanji led the voices that showcased Nigeria’s burgeoning investment opportunities. He was supported by Aisha Rimi, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), and industry stalwarts including John Olajide, Chairman of CCA and Founder/CEO, Axxess and Cavista Holdings. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Tuggar, who led the Federal Government delegation, affirmed Nigeria’s commitment to strengthening bilateral relations and strategic partnerships aimed at stimulating foreign direct investments inflow to Nigeria.

Oladepo, who represented IHS Nigeria at the session, underscored the company’s pivotal role in lowering barriers to entry for mobile network and internet service providers, catalysing infrastructure development, and fostering innovation hubs across Nigeria. He further shared IHS Towers’ illustrious journey from its inception in Lagos, in 2001, to its becoming a global powerhouse with footprints in 11 markets across three continents. He also stated that the IHS was the first Nigerian-rooted company to be publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), in 2021, showcasing the company’s role as a beacon of Nigerian achievement and a magnet for international investment.

At the closing plenary titled, “Partnering to Accelerate Africa’s Industrialisation,’’ IHS Nigeria reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to propelling sustainable industrial growth across the continent. Represented by Dapo Otunla, Chief Corporate Services Officer, IHS Nigeria, the company reiterated that it was dedicated to infrastructure investment, technology adoption, and collaborative partnerships as key drivers of Africa’s industrial revolution.

The plenary, moderated by Andrew Herscowitz, Executive Director of the Overseas Development Institute North America, convened a diverse array of leaders from government, finance, and industry to explore viable pathways for Africa’s green industrialisation. Also present in this discussion was Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, former Vice President of Nigeria and Guardian of Timbuktoo African Innovation Foundation, who highlighted the importance of innovation and technology in driving industrial growth.

Overall, IHS Nigeria’s good ambassadorial role at the summit underscored its belief in Nigeria, affirming its proactive role in shaping the future of African industrialisation, and aligning with its vision of fostering inclusive, sustainable development through technological innovation and strategic partnerships.

Blessed Omonose, a Developmental Journalist writes from Lagos.


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ICANN80: Nigerians Using .NG Domain Name Surpass 225,000



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The total domain names of the .ng registry have increased to 225,533, according to data made available by the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA).

Mrs. Busayo Balogun, Head of Technical Services at NiRA, during her presentation at ICANN80

NiRA the registry for .ng Internet Domain Names and maintains the database of names registered in the .ng country code Top Level Domain (ccTLD).

A team led by Mr. Adesola Akinsanya, the President of NiRA is currently attending Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Policy Forum, ICANN80, in Kigali, Rwanda.

In her presentation at the Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO) session, Mrs. Busayo Balogun, the Head of Corporate Services at NiRA said the Association had launched a dashboard for real time updates on .ng domain name registrations.

She said that the .ng domain name has continued to garner popularity in usage for websites and email addresses.

According to her, the dashboard shows the .ng domains have increased to 225,533 from 222,820 reported earlier in the year.

She told the audience that through its 3R – Registry, Registrar, Registrant – model of operation, NiRA contracts more than 100 registrars to provide registration services to the public.

“An end user selects a registrar to provide the registration service, and that registrar registers the domain chosen by the user. NiRA does not register user, directly. This model has really helped us to maintain decorum.

Earlier, Mr. Akinsanya reiterated NiRA’s commitment to driving .ng domain adoption and advancing Nigeria’s digital landscape.

“This growing trend underscores the domain’s significance and its role in establishing a strong digital identity for businesses and individuals alike.

“Additionally, we are currently conducting the .ng brand survey [] to gauge the awareness and adoption levels of the .ng domain among internet users in Nigeria.

“I encourage everyone to participate in this survey and share their valuable insights”, he said.

NiRA also received a rousing applause from participants at the ICANN80 as the ccNSO session lead, Joel Karubiu, former chief executive officer, Kenya Network Information Centre (KeNIC), said, “I see a lot of passion from the Nigerian team here”.

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