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Nigeria approves the review of the NCC Act 2003 to address regulatory overlaps with the NITDA

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In a bid to delineate the distinct regulatory roles of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the information technology policy development and implementation functions of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), the federal government has granted approval for the review of the NCC Act 2003.

This decision comes in the wake of recent conflicts between NCC and NITDA over industry regulatory matters, which threatened to undermine the telecom sector’s significant contribution to Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP).

According to the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Umar Garba Danbatta, the first and second drafts of the review have been completed, with the final draft awaiting approval from the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Bosun Tijani, before its release.

Speaking at the Telecom Executives and Regulators Forum (TERF) in Lagos, Danbatta emphasized the importance of revising the NCC Act to mitigate conflicts and overlaps, ensuring harmonious coexistence between NITDA and NCC without any friction in their respective roles.

The NCC Act 2003, enacted on July 8, 2003, empowers the NCC as a regulator responsible for creating a regulatory framework for Nigeria’s communications industry and facilitating the implementation of national telecommunications policies.

The impetus for the NCC Act review stems from the proposed NITDA Bill, submitted to the ninth Assembly, which aims to transform NITDA from a development agency into a regulatory body.

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This proposed bill seeks to establish a comprehensive framework for the administration, implementation, and regulation of information technology systems and practices in Nigeria, thereby creating regulatory overlap in a sector already regulated by the NCC.

Industry stakeholders expressed concerns that the proposed NITDA Bill could lead to regulatory conflicts between NCC and NITDA. They vehemently opposed the bill, asserting that it did not align with industry stakeholders’ interests.

After passing through the initial readings in the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on ICT and Cyber Security, the proposed NITDA Bill reached former President Muhammadu Buhari for approval. However, it was not signed into law before his departure from office on May 29, 2023.

Industry stakeholders had raised objections to the bill, citing a lack of consideration for their input and interests.

The former President of the Nigeria Computer Society (NCS), Adesina Sodiya urged the National Assembly to drop the bill, stating that it disregarded industry stakeholders’ contributions.

The Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo voiced concerns that the bill, if enacted, could disrupt the telecom sector’s growth, which has significantly contributed to Nigeria’s GDP and broadband penetration.

Adebayo called for a swift review of the NCC Act to unequivocally define the NCC’s role as the primary telecom regulator, recognizing its pivotal role in the sector’s growth and its impact on the Nigerian economy.

(Edited by Oludare Mayowa; omayowa@globalfinancialdigest.com; Newsroom: +234 8033 964 138)

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