AS the world celebrates the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, WWW, Omobola Johnson, minister of communication technology, says high cost of access and multiple regulations still constitute the major hindrances to the use of the internet as well as the roll out of its infrastructure in Nigeria.
The minister said even though the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, has remained the principal regulatory agency, it was regrettable that there were still other agencies that had oversight functions in the industry, including those of sub-national governments. These, she said, were too many to deal with.
On affordability, the minister said a large percentage of the Nigerians could not access the internet because of their poverty.“According to the A4AI Affordability Index report, 84 percent of Nigerians live on less than $2 per day and the World Bank notes that 63 percent live on less than $1.25. A prepaid mobile broadband user subsisting on $2 per day, who wanted to use 1GB of data per month, would have to spend 22 percent of his monthly income to do so. This is a far cry from the United Nations Broadband Commission’s target of five per cent.
“So, we either have to increase the average monthly income or drastically reduce the average cost of access for Nigerians to meet this target. I think the answer is that we must do both if we are to achieve our economic, social and political aspirations. This informed why we were one of the first countries to join the Alliance for Affordable Internet when it was launched, incidentally in Abuja, during the Commonwealth Technology Organisation Forum in October 2013,” she said.
Local Cement Producers Need Protection
CEMENT producers in the Nigeria have called on the federal government to continue to support and protect the local industry from unfair competition because the industry is still at investments stage. Joseph Makoju, chairman, Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, CMAN, said government should help the association to protect the industry and that people like Dangote have stuck their necks out and invested heavily in the sector.
“The industry is still at investment stage because many of our plants are still new. As we are talking now, Dangote is building extra lines at Ibese and Obajana. So, when you are in this stage of investment, you need to be protected,” he said.
Makoju, who is also the honorary adviser to Aliko Dangote, president, Dangote Group, described the introduction of the new cement grade by the company as ground breaking, saying “Nigeria is now one of the best quality producers of cement in the world. No matter the sophistication of the structure, this is the best grade for any civil construction. Dangote did not create the standard. The standard has been there, we have only blazed the trail by starting its production. It is good for lead bearing columns.”
He said that with this development, there should be no more excuses for allowing cement imports into the country. Devakumar Edwin, group managing director, Dangote Group, said that with the higher grade of cement quality, the incidence of building collapse in the country could be controlled. “For the past three months we have test-run the new products and it is now available in the markets. In the second half of this year, we are coming out with yet another new superior product,” he said.
Edwin explained that the Portland cement is produced in conformity with Nigeria Industrial Standards (NIS 444-1-2003 and other relevant standards. He said that in addition to the 42.5, the 52.5grade are now being produced at the company’s three plants in Ibese, Ogun state, Gboko, Benue state and Obajana in Kogi state, and selling for the same amount as the lower grade 42.5N type. “We are not only coming out with good products, we are also educating users of cement; it is important for the customer to see that the application of cement is done properly so that the full potential of the cement can be seen in the construction,” he said.
Bitflux Outwits Globacom
BITFLUX Communications Limited on Tuesday, March 11, paid $23.25m for the 2.3GHz frequency spectrum, which it won on February 19, this year. Tony Ojobo, director, corporate affairs, Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, confirmed the payment in a statement. In an electronic auction conducted by the NCC, Bitflux, a consortium of three operators in the Nigerian ICT industry, offered $23.25m ahead of Globacom’s $23.05m to clinch the coveted frequency.
In an anticlimax, the auction which lasted for only two rounds against popular expectation produced Bitflux as the winner of the spectrum that would enable the company to offer wholesale Internet services through retail operators across the country. At the first round of the contest, none of the companies put in a bid near the reserve price, which had been set at $23m. Each bidding company was expected to offer a minimum of 15 percent above the reserve price. This amounts to $26.45m.
Since no bidder offered anything near the $ 26.45m. in the first round, they were taken to the second round where they were expected to offer between $23m and $26.45m. It was at this point that Bitflux outwitted Globacom with an offer of $23.25m as against the latter’s $23.05m.
Eugene Juwah, executive vice chairman, NCC, had said the company had 14 working days to pay the bid price, failing which the regulatory agency would revert to Globacom as the reserve bidder. Bitflux was also required to pay another N151m for a Unified Access Service Licence. It has up to 30 days to meet this payment obligation
Compiled by Anayo Ezugwu
— Mar. 24, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT