The Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) has urged President Bola Tinubu to look within the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector to appoint a Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.
Ajibola Olude, Secretary of ATCON, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) while speaking on the association’s expectations from the new administration.
He said the President should appoint a Minister who had in depth knowledge about the industry, just like it was done in the banking sector.
Olude said that with the current challenges faced in the sector there was no time to experiment, urging the president to appoint someone from the industry.
“We need someone who knows the challenges in the ICT sector and understands how to find solutions to them.
“The industry also needs someone who is ready to work with the critical stakeholders in the industry and not an independent person who would not listen to them,” he said.
On broadband, Olude said the new administration should work toward realising the 70 per cent target.
He said that as at March the broadband penetration was around 48.2 per cent, noting that the country had two and a half years to meet up with the National Broadband Plan which was from 2020 to 2025.
Olude said the new administration should not only work toward meeting the target but also try to surpass and increase it.
He said he believed that the current president was proactive and would explore private investors to achieve the 70 per cent target.
He added that to further elevate the industry, it was necessary for the new administration to listen to relevant stakeholders on issues that had to do with the telecom and ICT sector.
Speaking on interest rate, Olude urged the new administration to make it a single digit, noting that currently, interest rate stood at 18.5 per cent which was not good for business.
He also explained that the banks usually gave out the loans at 30 per cent interest which was higher than the actual rate.
According to him, this is crippling innovation and development in the telecom industry.
Olude urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to create a special fund for the telecom industry through commercial banks.
“This way, it will be easier for us to access loans at the same rate they give to other sectors.
“This gesture has already been extended to the agricultural sector and the telecommunications industry has also become part of the ecosystem.
”CBN should open a window for our members to access loans and forex,” he said.
Reacting to the newly elected president’s speech on multiple taxation, Olude described it as a welcome development.
The ATCON secretary said that the telecom industry in particular was having challenges with multiple taxation, noting that the sector currently pays close to 40 different taxes to the federal government.
He said if the issue was addressed as promised, the telecommunications industry would be able to contribute more to the growth of the country.
Olude also commended the new administration on its promise to ensure a unified exchange rate.
According to him, currently telecom operators buy dollars from black market which is very expensive.
He said that because of the exchange rate, telcos end up using the money meant to buy multiple equipment to get just one.
Olude said that unifying the exchange rate would reduce the problem the industry would have recorded.