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Danbatta: More Golden Feathers to Academic Cap

Attaining a phenomenal success in whichever endeavour is, by no means, a piece of cake, no matter how providential one may be. Yet those who are there can appreciate the fact that, sustaining the glory already achieved is often a much more herculean job. People still wonder how Cristiano Ronaldo has managed to remain among the toasts of the game, creating all sorts of new records even at 33, an age that constitutes a significant encumbrance for a player whose main assets include, breathtaking pace and use of raw power to subdue opponents. In truth, however, it takes a great man who stays put on the pedestal of accomplishment to make it look so effortless. Within the space of 48 hours, last week, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof Umar Garba Danbatta, received two major honours that many would only hope to accomplish in  a lifetime.

First, he bagged the fellowship of  the Nigeria Academy of Engineering, the apex engineering body in the country on Thursday. And, two days later he was being dressed once again in the academic gown to receive an honorary doctorate degree of science (D.sc) of the University of Jos, Nigeria on top of his P.h.D from the prestigious  University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), U.K. Even for an acclaimed multiple award-winning chief executive officer/academician, who is used to receiving silverware, both locally and internationally— those were undoubtedly 48 hours to savour for Danbatta and the NCC. The Professor of telecommunications engineering had eloquently summed up the connotation himself when he received a high-powered delegation of the University of Jos, led by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Administration, Prof Teresa Nmadu, who paid a courtesy call to the commission’s Headquarters. “Universities are established in order to conduct teaching, research and community services. And I see what we are doing outside the confines of the university as an extension of community service. It doesn’t matter whether it’s at local, state or at the federal level; its service to communities, service to society and service to humanity. “Those are clearly the ideals on which universities, all over the world, are established. If through community service, therefore, we are recognized as giving outstanding contributions to society and humanity, I think that’s the most important recognition any academic can think of,” he pointed.

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The Academy of Engineering, during the investiture ceremony, said that Danbatta’s selection was because: “He is an erudite engineer and astute administrator whose administration in the Commission has tremendously transformed the telecom sector and grown Nigeria’s Broadband penetration from 8 percent to 22 percent, according to the ITU-UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development”. Indeed, while so much has so far been accomplished in the last 3 years of Prof Danbatta in the helm of affairs of the telecom industry in the country, the confirmation of the ITU-UNESCO Broadband Commission on the progress the country has made in deepening its broadband penetration, is one remarkable feat that stands out.

This quantum leap witnessed, therefore, tells not only the story of a man with Midas touch, but it also underscores how much ground the country has covered towards attaining its 30 percent broadband penetration by the end of this year. Having made deepening the broadband penetration the flagship of the 8-Point Agenda he unveiled at the commencement of his tenure, Danbatta has remained unrelenting to ensure that Nigeria continues to make progress in the journey toward its target. Six out of 7 infrastructure companies (Infracos) have been licensed to drive the deployment of broadband infrastructure in the country  based on the NCC’s Open Access Model (OAM), which is also in line with the National Broadband Plan (NBP) of (2013 – 2018.  With a combination of licenses for infrastructure provisioning and frequency spectrum auctions like 2.6 Ghz as well as farming and refarming of some of the existing frequencies to make them more efficient plus the recent introduction of the frequency trading framework, the NCC, under Danbatta, is making tremendous progress in the area of deepening Broadband penetration in Nigeria.

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The last 3 years of Danbatta at the NCC has also witnessed injection of renewed vigour in stakeholder engagements mostly to ensure that no stone is left unturned toward achieving the target. This saw the EVC traverse all nooks and crannies of the country to advocate on implementing a uniform Right of Way charges in accordance with the National Economic Council’s resolution. Perhaps NCC’s efforts under Prof Danbatta can be more appreciated if the fact that he assumed office at a time when the nation’s economy was going through its most challenging period in recent history, is taken into consideration. But providence like that has a way of bringing to the fore the  qualities of great leaders. It’s not surprising, therefore, he picked up the gauntlet and brought his astute management skills to bear on the industry. At a time when other sectors buckled up, the telecom industry defied the gravity of prevailing economic situation in the country to continue to churn out impressive contributions to the GDP.

The average contribution of the sector per quarter was N1.5 trillion, according to the  statics  from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), breeding more investor confidence. As the brand new regime of data rollover has just commenced in the country following the NCC’s regulatory directive, the paradigm shift the industry is witnessing in the area of consumer protection and satisfaction is also worth noting. The Year 2017 was dedicated for the consumer of the industry with a very successful campaign launched toward increasing awareness on the commission’s Do-Not-Disturb code (2442) which designed to empower consumers with options for barring or opting out of unsolicited telemarketing.

This is in addition to 622 toll-free line made available to the consumer to enable them  escalate complaints untreated by the mobile network providers —as well general improvement in Quality of Service. No fewer than 10 million customers activated the DND facility from little less than 500,000 before the commencement of the campaign.  While Danbatta’s performance in office has been nothing short of stellar, we should not lose sight of his contribution to public intellectualism. As I am writing this piece, the NCC boss is billed to deliver the convocation lecture at the Nigerian Defence Academy in September this year. This has been the familiar feature of his days as NCC boss, as prestigious institutions across the country find in him a treasure trove of knowledge to tap from.

The professor of telecommunications engineering was the first NCC boss to address the executive course of National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS). He also joined the league of eminent Nigerians like former President Olusegun Obasanjo to deliver the convocation symposium of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.   Those of us who are opportune to witness his international outings are always left with a great sense of pride. Danbatta,  always stands tall among the giants of the global telecommunications industry. Earlier in the year at  GSMA World Mobile Congress 2018, Danbatta was among the only notable industry titans in the world to participate in a session that industry watchers dubbed “an assembly of the giants”.

He joined Ajit  Varadaraj Pai, the Chief Regulator of the United States Federal Communications Commission, Ram Sewak Sharma, the Chief Regulator of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, and German Dario Arias Pimienta of Communications Regulatory, Colombia to present Nigeria’s digital transformation agenda and the exiting investment opportunities to the rest of the world. Musa, SA (Media) to the EVC of the NCC wrote in from Abuja


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