Posted by From Onwuka Nzeshi in Abuja on
The Nigerian telecommunications industry has recorded yet another phenomenal growth in the last one year with total number of telephone lines rising to an all time high of 22,912,917 at the last count
The Nigerian telecommunications industry has recorded yet another phenomenal growth in the last one year with total number of telephone lines rising to an all time high of 22,912,917 at the last count.
This is made up of 1,395,786 fixed lines and 21,517,13 mobile lines in a country that had a little over half a million telephone lines at the dawn of democracy in 1999. Teledensity level has also risen from its last year’s figure of 9.47 to18.18, a record one hundred per cent growth, while a total of $30.68bn worth of investments was recorded in the sector over the last seven years.
Minister of Communications, Chief Cornelius Adebayo disclosed these at the 2006 Ministerial Press Briefing held in Abuja. The briefing tagged: Nigerian Communications Environment - The Wheel of Progress Rolls On, chronicled the significant developments in the sector over the last one year with occasional flashbacks to the preceding years.
Adebayo, flanked by directors and captains of agencies and parastatals under the ministry, including the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), Engr. Ernest Ndukwe and Managing Director, NITEL, Mr. Albert Mashi, reeled out progress report on almost all spheres, attributing the positive developments recorded in the telecommunications sector on the enabling environment created by the Obasanjo administration through the economic reforms programme that culminated in the liberalization of the sector.
According to the minister, a recent research report has shown that Nigeria is home to one out of every ten mobile lines in Africa today and has the potential of growing to become one out of every four by the year 2010. He said with an average growth rate of 535 per cent between 2002 and 2003, Nigeria’s mobile phone market is the fastest growing mobile market in the world.
He noted that since 1999 when the present administration decided to open up the sector and encourage private sector participation, there has been a huge inflow of investment.
“The one hundred million dollar loan to MTN Nigeria from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in 2003 for example is the largest investment of the World Bank affiliate in Sub-Saharan Africa. We have continued to create the appropriate atmosphere for investors, who are on a daily basis making enquiries about the Nigerian market.
The Ministry also notes that no investor has come out to express any regret about entering the Nigerian market and we intend to keep it so. Indeed the ink is still fresh from the signatures to the 1.5billion Dollars buy in by CELTEC Company into V-Mobile and also Reltel, a Private Telephone Operator (PTO).
In the same vein, Huawei Technologies is making moves to acquire interest in Intercellular, another PTO, while ZTE is making similar moves to acquire interest in Cellcom. We are living up to our image as the sector for the highest direct foreign investments after petroleum,” Adebayo said.
The Communications sector, the minister further disclosed, has also continued to play a key role in the area of job creation since increased investment in the sector has got multiplier effects as in the ZTE Phone Handset Assembly Plant in Abuja which has created jobs for no fewer than 50 Nigerians.
In addition, Adebayo said, talks have reached advanced stages with Motorola to also start a handset manufacturing plant in Nigeria while there were also prospects that Nokia of Finland and Aguila Electronic, a Spanish company have also shown appreciable degree of interest in assembling their products in Nigeria.
Another area where progress has been recorded during the period under review is the insistence by President Olusegun Obasanjo that phone scratch cards be manufactured locally. “Today, Mr President who initiated the ban on importation of recharge cards is vindicated. Nobody talks about scarcity of scratch cards anymore, all cards are produced locally. I visited two of the major scratch card producers late last year and the story was that they were embarking on massive expansion to met market demands.
Local card production of course goes with skilled and unskilled job creation. We put all these on record as the humble beginning of a big national dream, which will in future take Nigeria into robust economic development as a manufacturing base for high-tech products rather than net importer of same,” the Minister said.
Nigeria Postal Service (NIPOST), Adebayo said the organisation had continued to improve on its primary function of quality mail and parcel delivery. Quoting the report of the Quality Mail Service Test (QMST) conducted between August 2005 and April 2006, the Minister said that 84.8% of interstate letters posted achieved three days transmission time to final destination; 12.4% attained five days and only 2.8% fell within seven to eight days. This he said was an improvement on the service of the organisation. Even at that, he said NIPOST had not relented but had continued to explore ways of improving the quality and
reach of its services.
On the vexed issue of the NITEL, the Minister described the current travails of the nation’s first national carrier as a generic problem built up over the years. According to Adebayo the inability of the former telecommunication monopoly to pay its bills today stems not from the ineptitude of its present managers but from problems accumulated over the years, which the Ministry in collaboration with NITEL management were trying to resolve.
He said the ministry remained committed to resolving the issues of arrears of salaries and allowances, but reminded Nigerians that NITEL was not just about outstanding salaries but still a huge national asset which must be privatised to allow for more diligent harnessing of its resources, assets and potentials.
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