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Our Democracy Should Domesticate Equity – Bobo Brown

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Veteran journalist,
motivational speaker and former National President of the Nigeria Institute of Public Relations Practioners, Amaopusenibo Bobo Brown spoke  with the Group Deputy News Editor of The Tide, Dr. Alpheaus Paul-Worika on Nigeria’s democratic journey. Excerpts.
May 29 has become a watershed in Nigeria’s democratisation process. What’s your assessment of the journey since 1999.
After fifteen years of democratic rule, one would have expected that for a people who have been on this journey for 15 years, we would stop and ask if the direction we are following is leading to the way we wish to go, what is wrong with the vehicle we are taking and the speed with which we are going, and where the various traffic signs we are seeing on the way are leading to?
The National Conference was for me, an opportunity for self discovery and mission redefinition. Unfortunately for many Nigerians especially those of us in the South-South, political considerations were placed above fundamental national issues and that scuttled mass involvement in developing the agenda for the national conference. That is, mass involvement in developing the platforms of each state or regional group delegation to the conference.
In effect, while regions like the South West and the North came with fairly respectable coherent agenda as a bargaining point, those from the South did not have the benefit of thought-leadership that really defines the articulation of issues and options around them to guide their contributions in the national conference so, 15 years after, you can say several things are wrong with our attempts at democratisation.
As an example, we have three tiers of government in our Federal system but the local governments are more like appendages of the states. So the interest of the State governments has crippled the functionality of the local government as they are no longer a vibrant mechanism for national development at the grassroot level.
The second level of distortion of our democracy is what happens in terms of separation of powers. The judiciary, legislature and executive arms are supposed to be the functional compartments of democracy but, what we have seen since 1999 is that the legislature is the first victim of executive gallantry, the governors in each State first conquer the legislature and then they can sleep well with their eyes closed.
With this mentality, it becomes difficult for the checks and balance necessary for the process of good governance. At the Federal level, the brick bat  between the Presidency and the National  Assembly have largely helped to create a sense of balance and to shape the way the nation is approaching democracy with all the faults and all. But you can still see a certain direction that efforts are being made to check the executive arm and the executive arm in turn is making efforts to check the excesses of the legislature where necessary. But at the State level, this is not happening. So Nigeria’s democracy began with a badly damaged vehicle in terms of tiers of government and in terms of separation of powers. Now the judiciary has also become suspect.
The crisis of dictatorial powers and influence has spread to the judiciary as there are signs that the judiciary is no longer protected from the overwhelming influence of the executive arm of government. So one problem with our democracy is the excessive powers of the executive arm of government and unless that is corrected, the entire process becomes questionable in terms of what it can achieve.
You see the result in the mass poverty, in the mistaking priority of States, in the aborted aspiration of the people, in the mismatch between the priorities of those who govern the people. We did a study in Rivers State in July last year in the height of the brick bat between Gov. Amaechi and President Jonathan. We listed five issues in order of importance for critical stakeholders in the Niger Delta. It was amazing that the issue between the President and the governor ranked the last in the opinion of critical stakeholders.
To the respondents the priorities were how public funds were being used, how investments in productive areas will drive the economy and create jobs. Also they wanted to be consulted and shown respect by those in government. They considered the quarrel between the governor and the president as based on personal interests which should not be mentioned at all at that point in time. Insecurity in the country, unemployment, mass poverty, the sense of anguish and lack of breathing space among the combatants in the political arena have shown  that something is wrong with our democracy.
One of the issues in public domain is the issue of financial autonomy for the judiciary. Will it not lead to dictatorship of the judiciary? Can it stabilize democracy?
Yes, what we have seen in the last 15 years is that dictatorship has been replicating itself at every level. It points to the fact that something is wrong with the model of democracy we have. For example, take Rivers State as a leading member of the South South coalition of minorities, asking for our voice to be heard, for our identities to be known in our dealings with others, but this is not the case. We talk about zoning principle at the centre so that every part of Nigeria will taste power, that you will see mutual respect reflected among ethnic groups.  But this is not happening because in our states and local governments we are not willing to practice it.
What we practice is the philosophy of zero-sum game; what you have you keep and until the other can snatch it from you, it doesn’t go round. So dictatorial tendencies are allowed to incubate. But as  late Claude Ake said, you cannot democratize without democrats. So the first things we need to do is to democratize our philosophy, orientation and attitude. Democracy expects you to respect what the other person stands for even when you do not agree with him. We see those in power seeking to maximize power. We need to domesticate the principle of equity as the pattern of democracy we have tends to make power incremental ad totalitarian.
Nobody wants to share power so even if the court rules in favour of financial autonomy for the judiciary it does not say anything about internal democracy which is necessary to free the judiciary from the overwhelming bias of a hierarchical structure.  Institutional dictatorship is a threat to democracy. After all, the legislature has enjoyed some level of financial autonomy, but at the National Assembly between 1999 and 2003 we had a very high turnover of speakers.
Does it explain the issue of impunity in the political space and social discourse?
Impunity is in my view a carryover from the military era. It is culture of dictatorship. During the financial crisis in Europe from 2009-2011, I read a report about Europeans’ protesting against received knowledge and the culture of dictatorship because it was a part of them as many of them were born into it. When I looked at the transition to democracy in Nigeria since 1999, I see a gap. I saw that the political elite in 1999 were quick to position themselves to get power and enjoy the exclusiveness which the military enjoyed because the constitution we had was not justiciable in many areas. The military regime did not give the people the opportunity to overthrow the very system that held them captive. So the people including the press is worse off today than they were before the advent of democracy.
The level of access to the media is very high in Rivers State. It is about 85% according to a study and one of the highest in the country, but do people still believe the media, not so much. They would rather see the actions themselves rather than believe the content of the media.  In 1979, when Alhaji Shehu Shagari assumed office, newspapers had remarkable influence and the role of journalists was highly respected. In this era, the power of the media to mobilize and galvanize action is diminishing and the media is being weakened. Many media establishments are collapsing. Not many people are able to buy newspapers, they read for free. So our democracy has been increasingly hard on the disadvantaged.
Is our democracy all loss?
No. it is not all loss. No matter how well crafted or intentioned, public participation was bound to have glitches; but one of the great things of our democracy is that people have not gone to sleep. The contradictions in the system have created the need and hunger for change. The crisis that has been created as a result of the failure of the machinery of democracy is only a matter of time. Freedom is never given, it is taken. The wind of change in the country is blowing not because the political elite want it, but because the army of the marginalized is increasing and it is making democracy inevitable. So what we have is a wakeup call. It is not a loss for democracy.
How do you assess the information and perception challenge concerning the Chibok girls abduction?
I will look at it from two perspectives. The first is the stakeholders’ concept and its application and how an issue that becomes internationalized transforms itself, and its objectives. Stakeholders are more of groups than individuals. The debate is intense as to what stakeholder groups mean. But we can say that in Nigeria, the stakeholder groups emerging are not as thorough as they should be. Stakeholders form a force for change in society in order to create value or capture value for change. It is a term that emerged from the market economy.
As the market economy advances it creates competition and because the competitors are not equally endowed or positioned there are contradictions in the political system because of unethical practices that are undemocratic.  Stakeholder groups create valve when they enter or capture an environment with a purpose to make society better. They do not necessarily want to overthrow the system, they want to bargain with other groups to protect an interest that benefits them.
It happened in our environment.  MOSOP activities as a stakeholder group, forced the multinational oil companies in the Niger Delta to consider the issues raised by the group. MOSOP agitations were tied to other environment and human rights groups not just because of its focus on environmental concerns, but because their agitation satisfied an international agenda and tied with international interest groups led by Bodyshop, Greenpeace, the World Council of churches.
The agitations by MOSOP and other Niger Delta groups made the multinational companies to empower the oil communities. For forty years, the multinational companies did not have a window or corridor for local communities empowerment, but with stakeholder agitations in the late 1990s,   international pressure was brought on the multinational companies such that they began to open corridors for local contractors. We are now seeing a lot of changes including where a Niger Delta man has become president. The commutative efforts of stakeholder groups have seen the Niger Delta produce the president. Nobody gave the Niger Delta a chance, but it was the result of the cumulative effort of local stakeholder groups. Unfortunately, stakeholder groups lack cohesion.
The only government that in my view, has given impetus to such stakeholder group is the Rivers Governor Chibuike  Amaechi, who instituted a programme of policy formulation by holding stakeholder summits, but those around him paid lip service to his interest and his passion for public participation by padding those platforms with sycophants, but it was still better than nothing.
In 2010, when President Yar’Adua was ailing, those who fought the battle for then vice president Goodluck Jonathan to be sworn in as acting president where traditional, pre-capitalist, stakeholder groups and ethnic associations such as the Arewa, Afenifere, youth groups, churches etc. Part of the problem we have as a democracy is because the stakeholder environment has not been positive enough. Where stakeholder support groups do not exist, democracy flounders. For instance you cannot talk about democracy in America without the active role of stakeholder groups. The anti-wall street movement of 2011 – 2012 helped to shape the character of the campaign for Obama while the anti-war stakeholder group against America’s external wars helped to strengthen Obama’s platform not because they like him more but because the stakeholder platform had raised the issues beyond colour.

Participants at the 2nd International State Conference on Democracy and Good Governance in Port Harcourt, yesterday. Among them are General Manager, Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, Mr. Celestine Ogolo (left) and General Manager, Rivers State Television, Mr. Tonye Ekong (middle).

Participants at the 2nd International State Conference on Democracy and Good Governance in Port Harcourt, yesterday. Among them are General Manager, Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, Mr. Celestine Ogolo (left) and General Manager, Rivers State Television, Mr. Tonye Ekong (middle).

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Entertainment

Transforming Nigeria Through Movies, Music, Arts

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Oil since its discovery in commercial quantity in Nigeria has dominated the nation’s economy, oil exports have contributed 98 percent of the Federal Government’s revenue. This over dependence has made the Nigeria’s economy unstable, non-static and has displayed a large over dependence on oil incomes.
It is on this premise that studies have been carried out to identify other sectors of the economy that could minimise the over dependence and mono economy syndrome of the nation. One of the veritable sectors is the entertainment industry, also known as the creative sector which comprises the movie, music, comedy, arts and culture, among others.
As Nigeria celebrates 60 years of independence from colonial rule, an indepth analysis of these eventful years reveals that the creative industry is dynamic and has not only generated unprecedented wealth for the country, but has also created employment opportunities for her citizens, contributed immensely towards transforming the country into a leading nation in Africa as well as a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment world.
After Nigeria’s independence in October 1,1960, the cinema business rapidly expanded. In 1972, the indigenisation Decree issued by the then Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon encouraged the transfer of ownership of about 300 cinema houses from their foreign owners to Nigerians resulting in more Nigerians playing active roles in cinemas and film businesses.
Today, Nigeria’s film industry popularly known as Nollywood is adjudged the third largest film industry in the world after Hollywood of America and Bollywood of India and contributed 2.3 percent (N 239 billion) to the Nigerian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2016. It is one of the priority sectors identified in the economic and recovery growth plan of the Federal Government of Nigeria with a planned $ 1 billion in export revenue by the end of 2020.
In the music sector, music has become Nigeria’s new export, in November 2017, Nigeria’s music star, Wizkid won the Best International Act category at the Music of Black Origin (MOBO) Awards held in London, the first for Africa-based artistes. At the same MOBO Awards, another Nigerian super star, Davido, took home the Best African Act Award for his song “IF”, a love themed ballad with a blend of Nigerian rhythms and RnB.
Since its release in February 2017, the official IF video has raked in up more than 60 million views on You Tube views for any Nigerian music video and one of the highest ever recorded for a song by an African
Across the African continent, other musical groups such as Kenya’s, boy band, Soto Sol, Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz and South Africa’s Mafikizolo have collaborated with or featured Nigerian top stars in attempts to gain international appeal.
Reuters news service calls Nigerian music,’’ a cultural export’ and the Nigerian government is now looking towards the creative industry including performing arts and music to generate revenue.
Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics Report that the local music sector grew in real term by 8.4 percent for the first three months of 2016 and that in the first quarter of 2017 the sector grew by 12 percent compared with the same period one year prior.
The Price Water Cooper (PWC) reports that the global attention the Nigerian music scene has received in the past three years has been accelerating. There is no better time for Nigerian artistes to use data and insight to reach billions with their musical content which will help to reposition the country.
According to the vice president, International Strategy and Sperations Warner Music Group, Mr. Temi Adeniyi,” the promise of what could be achieved by Nigeria’s booming music industry in the next decade is awe-inspiring especially if the industry focuses on the critical issues of adequate compensation and piracy.
In Arts, the Director General of National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe noted that” culture is the new revenue driving sector which can serve as an alternative to the oil sector in Nigeria “
He stated this at the official opening of the 13th edition of Akwaa Travel and Tourism fare in Lagos in 2017. He maintained that culture was a viable alternative revenue generating sector that could help to boost the economy.
According to a recent entertainment and media output report by PWC, Nigerian entertainment and media industry is expected to rise from $4.46 billion in 2018 to $10.8 billion by the end of 2023.The report which was released in October 2019 disclosed that the market is dominated by internet revenue as it presently contributes about 61 percent of the sector’s revenue followed by television and radio which is expected to push towards $1billion in revenue by 2023.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said, “We are ready to explore and exploit the new oil. When we talk about diversifying the economy, it is not just Agriculture or solid Minerals alone, it is about the creative industry, about the films, theatre and music”.
The minister made the comments ahead of a Creative Industry Financing Conference held in Lagos in 2018.He noted that the Nigerian government is already providing incentives in the sector including a recent $1 million venture capital fund to provide seed money for young and talented Nigerians preparing to set up business in the creative industry.
He also said, “The country is allowing the industry pioneer status, meaning that those inventing in motion picture, video and TV production, music production publishing, distribution exhibition and photography can enjoy a three to five years tax holiday.
Other incentives such as government backed and privately backed investment funds are also been implemented. The minister noted that with the impressive performance so far recorded, the creative industry has been viewed as a sector that could help the government reach its goal of diversifying the nation’s economy away from oil.

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News

Oil Exploration And Niger Delta Environment

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From the first crude oil export in 1958 to the exploration of its associated products such as gas, the Niger Delta region for the past 60 years has not fared well in terms of sustained development despite being the source of the nation’s means of livelihood.
According to reports from the Central Bank of Nigeria, the region generates between 65% to 75% of all Federal Government’s revenue especially after the end of the Civil War in 1970.
But today, although oil and gas and its associated products still run the nation’s economy, its bye-products and impact on the region are quite devastating on both environment and the socio-economic life of the people of the area. The aquatic life, forests and farmlands have been so degraded that some areas are now devoid of human and animal habitation. Diseases and sickness are now prevalent with some communities are facing great health challenges.
Worried by these hazards, the late renowned playwright, and novelist, Kenuule Saro-Wiwa raised alarm in the late 1980’s about the fast paced degradation of the environment of the Niger Delta region. Although he was eventually killed during the struggle to find an equitable solution to the problem, the fight for a comprehensive study and remediation of the environment continued unabated despite the obstacles placed on would-be environmental activists.
The region is also described as one of the most polluted in the world. It is estimated that while the European Union experienced 10 incidences of oil spills in 40 years, Nigeria recorded 9,343 cases in 10 years which could be described as a deliberate effort to slowly eradicate life from the area through poisoning of the environment.
Following the long agitations and protests from the area, the Federal Government in 2016 finally gave the nod for the implementation of the long awaited United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report beginning from 2016.
In a foreword to the report on the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland as a case study, UNEP had this to say: “The history of oil exploration and production in Ogoni land is a large complex and often painful one that till date has become seemingly intractable in terms of its resolution and future discussion.”
It also says, “It is also history that has put people and politics and the oil industry at loggerheads rendering a landscape characterised by lack of trust, paralysis and become set against a worsening situation for the communities concerned.”
The situation in Ogoniland is peculiar to the rest of the Niger Delta region.
The discovery of oil in commercial quantities in Oloibiri in present day Bayelsa State was the beginning of the environmental crisis bedeviling the Niger Delta region.
It would be recalled that the agitation for environmental reparation of the Niger Delta region dated back to the colonial times.
The agitations led to the setting up of the Willinks Commission of inquiry into the fears of the minorities. Although the commission amongst others, recommended the granting of special developmental status to the Niger Delta, the recommendation was never implemented by successive Nigerian governments after independence.
The exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbon in the Niger Delta region can be said to be of mixed blessings to the region.
On the one hand, it improved the per capita income of the region through the creation of middle and high income earners. But on the other hand, it has led to series of environmental pollutions, thereby depriving communities in the region of their sources of livelihood.
This situation has led to series of crisis in the region such as the Ogoni crisis of 1990 to 1993, the Kaiama Declaration which led to the creation of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), the crisis in Umuechem in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State and others.
Similarly, the development of artisanal refineries in the Niger Delta has also been blamed for contributing to the recent acid rain and black soot in the environment.
Although the Nigerian authorities may have taken some measures to ameliorate the sufferings caused by oil explorations in the region, through the creation of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) which metamorphosed into Federal Ministry of Environment, the creation of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); inclusion of derivation into the Constitution and the creation of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs have not been able to provide the much-needed succour to the people of the Niger Delta as the problems still persist.
Meanwhile, experts have attributed the high rate of poverty in the Niger Delta to the environmental degradation of the region. At a recent Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) meeting in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo shared a documentary of the current situation in the Niger Delta, adding that the region has remained backward despite its huge economic contributions to the Nigerian nation.
Ambassador Toyo who was secretary to the Technical Committee on the Niger Delta during the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua administration said, “it is frustrating to know that the context has not changed as these challenges still stare the region in the face.
“The Niger Delta is still very much degraded as issues such as the following are still debated upon: gas flaring, abject poverty, militancy, crude oil theft, unemployment, cultism and organised crime, poor state of infrastructure and underdevelopment,” she said.
She also said; “apart from lack of opportunities in the region, there is also the breakdown of law and order in the communities.
“Communities often fight over who gets what when development opportunities arise as seen in some communities in Ogoni with regards to the clean-up,” adding that such fight can scare investors away and the region will continue to suffer underdevelopment.
Also in its policy brief note on insecurity in Rivers State, the Niger Delta Dialogue Secretariat says, “there is an environmental dimension to insecurity in Rivers State. For several years now, Port Harcourt and its environs have been covered by soot.
“This is as a result of increased artisanal refining of crude oil and other forms of pollution in the state.
“These pollution-inducing activities from both illegal artisanal and legal oil production has increased environmental insecurity in Rivers State.
“This has negatively impacted on the quality of life in Rivers State,” it said.
Also speaking on the issue, a civil society activist, Ambassador Christy Iwezor said the Nigerian nation has not done enough for the Niger Delta.
She said 60 years down the lane, some oil producing communities have no water to drink and cited the example of some communities in ogoniland in which sources of water have been polluted.
Also speaking, another civil rights activist, Prince William Chinwo stressed the need for a policy that will incorporate the polluters pay principle into the Nigerian law.
According to him, if multinational companies are fined for pollution, they will be more careful in their operations.
He also blamed environmental problems on sanitary conducts.
“The problems of environmental degradation in Nigerian is caused by poor sanitary conduct of Nigerians and inefficient use of local government council workers on environmental sanitation.”
According to him, local government councils must also wakeup to their responsibilities of ensuring improved level of hygiene in their various communities.
The question is after 60 years of independence, have we really made any meaningful progress in the Niger Delta compared to similar environments across the globe where oil and gas are the mainstay of their economy. It would be noted that the gulf countries where oil and gas are the mainstay of their economy have gone far ahead in terms of environmental remediation.
The 60 years anniversary should provide the opportunity for the country to further look into the Niger Delta issues.

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Special Edition

How ICT Can Push The Envelop In National Dev

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If it was just for information and its gathering, processing and transmission, it can be said without any fear of equivocation that Nigeria has never lagged, especially in the context of the development of that sector within sub-Saharan Africa. After all, the first crop of the country’s political leaders was among the best journalists and newspaper publishers in the region, namely Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ernest Ikoli and Anthony Enahoro, among others.
Azikiwe’s West African Pilot and the Western Nigeria Television inaugurated in 1959 by Awolowo served to inform, educate and entertain the people while also effectively galvanizing them for the Independence struggle of the time.
At that time, radio broadcasting had already been dominated by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). All the people did was to cluster around their short-wave radio sets for an hourly dose of news from London. Private radio stations were not a common sight, if they existed at all.
Cinema was a luxury then as the mobile cinema units of the various regional information ministries travelled around to entertain mostly rural dwellers who had little or no access to electricity and television. A community was considered lucky if it enjoyed such visitation as many as three times in one year.
On the other hand, telecommunication and its associated technology did not develop as rapidly, being the more expensive. For a long time after attaining Independence on October 1, 1960, Nigerians depended on whatever communication infrastructure their British colonial masters left behind. This consisted of the local town crier system, postal and wire services (including land telephone, telegraph and cable telegram). The Post and Telecommunications (P&T) Department saw to the provision of the latter services. It was later split into the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) and the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL), now privatised as NTel.
Foreign companies like the International Telephone and Telegraphs (ITT) won major contracts for the development and rehabilitation of communication infrastructure, especially after the Nigerian Civil War in the early 1970s. Recall that the late politician and business mogul, MKO Abiola, once rose to become its chief executive officer for the African region.
It is widely believed that not until the introduction of the Global System of Mobile Communication (GSM) on August 6, 2001 by the President Olusegun Obasanjo-led civilian government did the face of ICT change in Nigeria.
The government took the decision to deregulate the telecom sector through its policy on adoption of ICT in 1999 by licensing such international mobile phone service providers as ECONET (now Airtel), MTN, and Etisalat (9Mobile) to set up shop in Nigeria. They were later joined by an indigenous telecom firm, Globacom, as a Second National Operator (SNO).
It could be recalled that the entry of Globacom into the telecom industry was at a time when call cost was N50 per second. The firm immediately introduced a pricing system that charged 11 kobo per second, thereby forcing a crash in the cost of mobile telephony as the competition was practically whipped into line. As if that was not enough, it soon undertook the laying of underwater international fibre-optic cable for superior service delivery.
Private Telephone Operators (PTOs) like Starcomm, Reliance Telephone (Reltel), Multilinks and Visafone were also licensed to provide mobile phone services but mainly on the fixed wireless GSM and CDMA platforms.
With regard to its social and economic impact on the nation, industry experts are agreed that the GSM revolution has led to massive employment generation. From the ubiquitous roadside under-the-umbrella call centres to the street corner cybercafés and cell phone retail shops the nation had never witnessed such rise in the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Additionally, available statistics indicate that the overall Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the telecoms sector stood at $32 billion in mid-2015; second only to the oil and gas sector. Others have even posited that, with the collapse of crude oil prices between 2015 and 2017, activities and earnings from this sector may have seen to Nigeria’s quick recovery from the recession of those years.
In terms of policy and regulatory oversight, ICT in Nigeria is said to be conducted under three major policy documents, namely: the National Mass Communication Policy of 1990 which implementation falls under the purview of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC); the National Telecommunications Policy of 2000 with the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) as chief executor; and the National Policy for Information Technology of 2001 to be executed by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA)
NBC is the main regulator of the broadcast industry in Nigeria. Some of its activities include the issuance of broadcast licences, allocation of transmission frequencies, establishing operational standards and ensuring compliance with the broadcast code.
The Commission is, by law, required to report to the Presidency through its parent ministry (Information and National Orientation).
The NCC which came into existence via an Act in 2003 has regulatory authority over activities in the telecommunications industry. It has powers to license operators, encourage competition, ensure quality service, monitor tariffs and protect consumers, among others.
The NITDA came on board through a 2007 Act and is charged with the planning, promotion and development of IT penetration and projects across Nigeria.
There are four other policy implementation and regulatory bodies within the ICT sector. They are: the Nigeria Internet Registration Association (NiRA); NIGCOMSAT; National Frequency Management Council (NFMC); and the Universal Service Provision Fund (USPF).
The non-ICT sector has also recorded some significant gains arising from developments in information and communications technology. For instance, the use of presentation software like Microsoft PowerPoint in schools and corporate boardrooms, computer spreadsheet for accounting, e-learning, e-library, e-banking and e-commerce are some popular applications that have yielded good social and commercial dividends.
The use of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), Point of Sale (POS) terminals and mobile money transfers have helped to decongest banking halls and also save man-hours that would ordinarily have been wasted in long queues.
Another benefit of ICT was made even more manifest at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown when schools were abruptly shut down and children who could afford it engaged in virtual learning from their homes. Even some of their parents were forced to work from home using whatever ICT means available to them.
Also, the New Media which is powered by ICT and includes Internet publishing and social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have significantly enhanced real-time information sharing and social interaction with people across the globe.
Personnel management and remuneration systems have been made easier with the advent of biometric exercises, electronic time-keeping and integrated staff records and payroll methods long adopted by the private sector, and more recently, the federal, state and local governments. Even the federal government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the systems upgrade steadily being undertaken by some of its agencies are ICT-driven.
In agriculture, the President Goodluck Jonathan administration used GSM phones to dislodge middlemen while distributing fertilizers and other farm inputs directly to beneficiaries in the rural areas. This may have served to boost food production.
After successfully emerging from the latest economic recession, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration drew up a four-year Economic Reconstruction and Growth Plan (ERGP). In this plan was included an ICT Roadmap 2017-2020 which it hoped to achieve through activities of the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy and which seeks to create two million jobs by the end of 2020.
Overall, the ICT sector still has the potential of yielding more positive results if only the government can follow through with some of its lofty roadmaps, especially those that aim to establish ICT Centres and Innovation Hubs in selected states across the country.

 

By: Ibelema Jumbo

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