REMARKS BY SENATOR ANYIM PIUS ANYIM, PRESIDENT
OF THE SENATE ON THE OCCASION OF THE PUBLIC
HEARING ON THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS BILL BEFORE
THE SENATE ON TUESDAY, 17, SEPTEMBER 2002.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives,
The Acting Chairman Senate Committee on Communications,
The Distinguished Members of the Senate Committee on Communications,
The Hon. Members of the House of Representatives,
The Hon. Minister for Communications,
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Communications,
The Director General, Bureau of Public Enterprises,
Heads of Parastatals of various Government Agencies present,
All stakeholders in the Telecom Industry here present,
Gentlemen of the Press,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I wish to congratulate members of the Senate Committee on Communications for organization public hearing on the Telecommunications Bill, especially for taking time out of their busy schedule from their constituency owing to the on-going voters registration exercise.
Telecommunications is as precious as gold in our contemporary society, hence its importance cannot be over-emphasised as it relates to National Security, Defence and Economic Development. Infact recent innovations in Communication and Information Technology are often used as standards for measuring the level of development of most countries.
The growth of the Telecom Sector in Nigeria has been very encouraging with the licensing of major operators in the industry. (i.e MTN, ECONET and NITEL). This development has led to the increase in the use of Telephone Services and by necessary implication increase in commercial activities. The attendant consequence of this is incessant complaints as it relates to poor reception, interconnectivity cost of services to both operators and customers e.t.c. These should be carefully considered in the course of this Public Hearing in order to meet the aspirations and yearnings of the Public.
One obvious development in this sector that must be appreciated is that with the inception of the GSM Technology in the country, more jobs have been created for Nigerians. I will encourage the members of the committee that in carrying out this assignment that they should ensure a level playing field for all operators in the Industry, in order to improve services for all. The cardinal principle of the present administration is to take development to the grass roots.
Rural Telephony has been neglected for a very long time in the country, where majority of those we represent reside and carry out their daily activities. I wish to use this opportunity to encourage the operators to extend their services to such areas in order to create investment opportunities for our rural populace. I wish to recommend that this public hearing should embark on positive discourse with the aim of fashioning out policy decisions that will culminate in statutory enactment to ensure the realisation of such goals.
The policy thrust of this administration is the maximization of democratic dividends for the Nigerian Citizenry in all sectors of the economy. Hence, it is my humble submission that such goals will continue to elude us, if the engine of Contemporary Global Economy. Telecommunications is not given its prime place. I therefore, enjoin all participants at this forum to cash on this opportunity to ensure free flow of information that will keep the country a pace with the comity of nations on recent innovations on the Information and communications Technology, through frank discussion. This will enabie the National Assembly legislate effectively on this sector.
Our calling as legislators is to ensure that Nigerians enjoy available and affordable Telecommunications Services. But the public outcry that heralded the inception of the GSM Technology in the country is far from this cherished goal. While I understand the burden the citizens have to bear in this regard, I wish to say that we shall be failing in our duty, if we legislate on tariff in a manner that may ultimately put operators out of the Nigerian market. I personally believe that the Nigerian Communications Commission is capable of meeting these challenges effectively instead of given it legislative flavour as it has been canvassed in various for a, I suggest the interplay of the forces of demand and supply to determine our tariffs.
Finally, legislation generally seeks to address societal ills, but in this area I venture to say that we should be pro-active rather than reactive, so as to set goals in keeping with Global trends in this sector. Such as attainment of a specified Teledensity within a time frame, introduction of information and Communications Technology in our primary and secondary schools so as to bridge the digital divide.
I wish you a fruitful deliberation.
Thank you and stay blessed.