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'Not Party Time Yet' as Nigeria grapples with telecommunications reform
Unformatted Document Text:  “Not Party Time Yet”: Nigeria grapples with Telecommunications Reform 6 The NCC decree, also better described as the liberalization decree, was intended not only to increase access to telecommunications service but to also provide avenue for the raising of cash for government coffers. However, the newly created commission appeared uncertain as to its charge. Adekanmbi (1999) concluded that licenses were awarded without any clear objectives. The strategy of attracting leading foreign corporations with huge capital was quickly forgotten in the scramble for the licenses. Instead, local politics and individual greed took over and several licenses appeared to be awarded to bidders who were ready to pay under the table or to those bidders close to the then military government. The commission awarded numerous licenses for various types of telecommunications services. For instance, it awarded licenses to Artizan Project and Communications Investments Limited (CIL) for cellular telephony; and Bourdex Telecommunications and EM-International Systems for fixed telephony. These were among hundreds of licensed companies. Unfortunately, very little background work was done on several of these license applicants in order to ascertain their capabilities. The result was that several never got off the ground and thus such companies simply sat on their licenses. In addition, some applicants purposely sought licenses with the intent to resell them. Thus, the licensing process threatened to turn into a haven for middlemen dealers rather than assuring that those who received licenses were indeed capable of helping improve access to telecommunications service. The then Chief Executive of NCC, Mr. Ogbonna Iromantu, complained that “of the 150 telecommunications companies licensed so far nationwide, fewer than 20 had provided services to their clients” (Kubeyinje, 1998). Kubeyinje reported that 12 such companies eventually had their licenses revoked when they failed to start services two years after they were licensed. Much more damaging was that the Commission made little effort to attract leading foreign companies as the government had hoped. Re-focusing the Commission The chaotic regulatory and licensing environment was finally resolved when a democratic government was elected and the government promptly dissolved the sitting

Authors: Onwumechili, Chuka. and Okereke-Arungwa, Joy.
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“Not Party Time Yet”: Nigeria grapples with Telecommunications Reform
6
The NCC decree, also better described as the liberalization decree, was intended
not only to increase access to telecommunications service but to also provide avenue for
the raising of cash for government coffers. However, the newly created commission
appeared uncertain as to its charge. Adekanmbi (1999) concluded that licenses were
awarded without any clear objectives. The strategy of attracting leading foreign
corporations with huge capital was quickly forgotten in the scramble for the licenses.
Instead, local politics and individual greed took over and several licenses appeared to be
awarded to bidders who were ready to pay under the table or to those bidders close to the
then military government. The commission awarded numerous licenses for various types
of telecommunications services. For instance, it awarded licenses to Artizan Project and
Communications Investments Limited (CIL) for cellular telephony; and Bourdex
Telecommunications and EM-International Systems for fixed telephony. These were
among hundreds of licensed companies. Unfortunately, very little background work was
done on several of these license applicants in order to ascertain their capabilities. The
result was that several never got off the ground and thus such companies simply sat on
their licenses. In addition, some applicants purposely sought licenses with the intent to
resell them. Thus, the licensing process threatened to turn into a haven for middlemen
dealers rather than assuring that those who received licenses were indeed capable of
helping improve access to telecommunications service. The then Chief Executive of
NCC, Mr. Ogbonna Iromantu, complained that “of the 150 telecommunications
companies licensed so far nationwide, fewer than 20 had provided services to their
clients” (Kubeyinje, 1998). Kubeyinje reported that 12 such companies eventually had
their licenses revoked when they failed to start services two years after they were
licensed. Much more damaging was that the Commission made little effort to attract
leading foreign companies as the government had hoped.
Re-focusing the Commission
The chaotic regulatory and licensing environment was finally resolved when a
democratic government was elected and the government promptly dissolved the sitting


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