Federal government on Monday disclosed the federal government’s plan to activate the emergency communications centres as well as create a minimum of one in each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT with a view to addressing the incessant rate of accidents and spate of insecurity across the country.
This is even as the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, said that the National Toll-Free Emergency Bill presently before the National Assembly would establish a channel and put in place a structure to guarantee swift security response to Nigerians in times of emergencies.
Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami spoke at the public hearing on two bills: “Nigerian Postal Service (Repeal and Establishment) Bill, 2021” and “Nationwide Toll-free Emergency Number (Establishment) Bill, 2021” organised by the Senate Committee on Communications, chaired by Senator Oluremi Tinubu (APC Lagos Central).
Pantami, however, advised that the bill accommodate provisions for the establishment of the National Toll-Free Emergency Board, as against the creation of a separate agency, to be chaired by the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC.
The minister also commended the National Assembly over moves to unbundle the Nigerian Postal Service.
“What is more commendable in this bill is the fact that the bill plans to unbundle NIPOST by making a regulation to be independent of the operation. This is the global best practice.
“A regulator is not supposed to be the operator because the regulator could compromise.
“If a regulator is a player in the same market that he is regulating, there is a high probability that personal interest will not allow the regulator to regulate the sector effectively.
“So, what is most important in this bill as far as I’m concerned, is the fact that the regulator is going to be an independent body, and that regulator is not an operator.
“That will make the regulator to be very objective in regulation, and I think this is highly commendable to the National Assembly,” Pantami said.
Earlier, the Senate President posited that the amendment of the Nigerian Postal Service Act would reposition the agency to provide efficient service delivery to Nigerians.
According to him, the bills under consideration by the National Assembly, when eventually passed and assented into law, would bring about significant improvement to the country’s messaging systems.
“We cannot undermine the place of communication in our lives, considering its ability to help us pass information around, not only for the development of understanding and knowledge, but for us to carry out physical responsibilities for social progress.
“The Nigerian Postal Service Act is particularly in focus for its ability to strengthen the regulatory capacity of that agency, aside from enhancing its facility to meet the aspirations of the people.
“The National Toll-Free Emergency Number (Establishment) Bill, 2021 is equally very important for offering citizens the outlet to freely seek assistance, in case of emergency, or for the prevention of incidences.
“We underline the public service role of government in the two bills, in view of government constitutional responsibility to work for the security and wellbeing of the people.
In her own, the chairman of the committee, said the Nigerian Postal Service Act, seeks to unbundle the agency, whose responsibility would be the provision of universal postal services in Nigeria.
She disclosed that the bill makes provision for the administration and planning of a national post code system in line with global standards for efficient mail delivery.
According to her, it seeks to establish the Universal Postal Service Fund (UPSF) to be applied for the deployment of subsidized postal services and infrastructure.
Speaking on the National Toll-Free Emergency bill, she said that the piece of legislation sponsored by Senator Ibikunle Amosun (APC Ogun Central) provides for the establishment of a nationwide primary emergency telephone numbers reporting of emergencies to the relevant agencies of government.
“The bill goes further to saddle the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) with the responsibility of supervising, managing and implementing this bill and its provisions”, Tinubu added.
Also speaking, the chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Telecommunications, Hon. Akeem Adeyemi, disclosed that the bill has scaled second reading in the lower legislative chamber, saying “NIPOST is important, not just for revenue it is capable of generating for the country, but also for its ability to reach small towns and villages around Nigeria that have little or no federal government presence.”
“However, NIPOST’s ability to do its work is being hampered by weak institutional framework, thus necessitating a legislation that empowers the agency to function optimally,” he said.