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SIM card deactivation and ITU digital agenda

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By Sonny Aragba-Akpore

At a time when the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) appears to be racing towards 2030 when every human being on earth is expected to be connected to the internet and mobile networks, no fewer than 42 million mobile networks subscribers have been disconnected and therefore disabled from communicating in Nigeria.

They were said to be recalcitrant as a result of their inability and or refusal to link their National Identity Numbers( NIN) to their mobile numbers.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) gave a mandate to Mobile Network Operators (MNO) to disable unlinked numbers to NIN with a February 28,2024 deadline to implement the directive.

And it has been so implemented.

Now the chips are down and the 42 million subscribers are out and also down.

Only last week, while the beleaguered subscribers battled to keep pace with their link to the network numbers, there were indications that some of them didn’t even have the NIN let alone link one. There were also some others who claimed to have misplaced their NIN and yet others who allegedly said they actually linked their NIN earlier and wondered why they should be disconnected from the networks.

Like a local parlance goes “there is wahala “ translated to mean “ there’s trouble “.

But this story goes beyond that wahala.

Industry sources said a total of 45 million numbers in the country may be disabled for not linking their subscriber identification Module(SIM) cards with their National Identification Numbers (NINs).

Agency reports say “Out of the 45 million, 42 million lines have neither made a call, had a data session nor sent an SMS in over one year.”

In December 2020, the government announced the integration policy of SIM cards into the NIN database, as a measure to tackle the growing trend of insecurity and kidnapping across the country.

“These 42 million lines have been inactive for over a year. So essentially, from our system checks only about 3 million active lines would be barred. We expect that the users of these lines would come out to submit their NIN and unbar their lines or abandon the lines entirely,” a source explained.

The disconnection on February 28,has been one of the deadliest since 2020 as 42 million subscribers are disconnected from making or receiving calls.

Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) Gbenga Adebayo, was quoted as saying that “those affected were mainly connected to devices such as MiFi and tablets, which the subscribers did not link to their National Identification Number (NIN).”

According to him, such SIM cards were connected to the devices before the year 2022 and they had not been in use hence the subscribers did not see the need to link them to their NIN.

But the ITU thinks differently as the United Nations multilateral organization continues the race to bridge the digital divide by 2030.

On Broadband/Connectivity and the need to bridge the digital divide, ​​ITU Secretary-General Doreen Bogdan-Martin announced last week that over USD 9 billion in investment commitments from mobile operator groups was made to extend global connectivity.

The announcement, made at Mobile World Congress (MWC), in Barcelona, Spain on February 26,2024 builds on the mobile industry’s strong support to ITU’s efforts to connect the world by 2030.

Alongside the new commitments, the UN Digital Agency also announced that it now has over 1,000 industry, academia and organizational members in addition to its 193 Member States. This milestone marks the largest, most diverse membership in the agency’s history.

The new industry commitments raise to over USD 46 billion the total current value of planned investment in infrastructure, services and support to ITU’s Partner2Connect Digital Coalition since the platform opened in March 2022.

“Universal meaningful connectivity is within our grasp,” said ITU Secretary-General Bogdan-Martin. “Thanks to these new commitments, millions of people will benefit from accessible and affordable connectivity across the world.”

The commitments announced at Mobile World Congress include:
USD 6 billion between 2024 and 2026 for accessible and affordable network connectivity and digital services across countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia

China Telecom: Over USD 1.4 billion to rollout fibre-to-the-home (FTTH)​, providing high-quality information and communication services to over 80 million people in remote administrative villages across China.

Ooredoo: USD 1.1 billion for connectivity in the developing markets ranging from North Africa to the Indian Ocean.
VEON: USD 600 million in building the infrastructure of Ukrai​ne, providing connectivity and digital services essential to the reconstruction of the country.

“I applaud the ITU Secretary-General’s focus on the importance of infrastructure investment to enable the digital economy,” said John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer, GSMA. “Mobile operators continuously invest in deploying and upgrading their networks, delivering benefits to citizens in all corners of the globe. I congratulate e&, China Telecom, Ooredoo and VEON on their investment pledges. I am encouraged that MWC is the event of choice for such commitments and for collaboration between the public and private sectors.”

Back home in Nigeria , agency reports, say the NCC’s directive for mandatory NIN-SIM linkage grew out of a national security initiative aimed at curbing criminal activities perpetrated through the use of anonymous phone lines.

“By linking phone numbers with a verified national identity, authorities hope to increase user accountability and facilitate the identification of individuals involved in criminal Impact and Potential Repercussions”

The disconnection of millions of lines has undoubtedly caused inconvenience for affected subscribers.

While MTN has stated that many of the disconnected lines belonged to “low-value subscribers,” minimizing the financial impact on the company, the loss of service can be disruptive for both subscribers and corporate organizations.

An analyst reasons that the situation raises questions regarding the accessibility of the NIN registration process and the potential for social exclusion it may create. Furthermore, concerns linger regarding the effectiveness of the NIN-SIM linkage in achieving its intended security goals.

MTN has indicated that they are working with authorities to streamline the NIN verification process and have also implemented various channels to facilitate verification for affected customers, aiming to minimize service disruption. It remains to be seen if these efforts will be sufficient to address the concerns of disconnected subscribers and the broader public.

The NCC’s directive and MTN’s subsequent actions highlight the evolving landscape of telecommunications regulation in Nigeria, with a focus on balancing security concerns with user convenience and inclusivity. It will be interesting to observe how this situation unfolds and the long-term impact it has on the Nigerian telecommunications industry.

New data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) shows significant progress in global internet connectivity . Figures for 2023 reveal that the number of people worldwide without internet access has decreased to approximately 2.6 billion, down from 2.7 billion in 2022.

ITU data also highlights that 67 percent of the world’s population, equivalent to 5.4 billion people, are now online. This underscores the widespread internet adoption worldwide, with billions of individuals benefiting from digital access. However, the report emphasises that the digital divide continues to pose a significant challenge. Less than one-third of the population enjoys online access in low-income countries, where internet connectivity growth has been most significant. Despite a 17 percent increase in internet users in these regions over the past year, most citizens in these countries are still disconnected from the digital world.

ITU’s Director of Telecommunication Development Bureau, Cosmas Luckyson Zavazava, underscores that millions of people, particularly in low-income countries, are missing out on the life-changing benefits of internet access in this digital transformation era. The data also highlights the pressing need for more than just internet connectivity. In addition to expanding access, it is crucial to equip users with digital skills, enabling them to harness the internet’s full potential and navigate the online world safely.

The report also highlights a concerning reality: the double-digit growth in internet connectivity observed during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic 2020 has not been sustained. Current trends, though positive, are not robust enough to guarantee universal and meaningful connectivity for all by 2030. This indicates the need for further efforts to bridge the digital divide and ensure equitable access to the benefits of the internet.

The policy to deactivate unlinked SIM cards in Nigeria was expected to help the Nigerian authorities in fighting bandits and terrorists who kidnap and kill innocent people daily.

Despite the extension of deadlines, many phone lines are yet to be linked. Three years later, it is not clear how much the SIM-NIN connection has helped in fighting insecurity as terrorists have continued to attack the citizens.

The policy was expected to help the authorities in fighting bandits and terrorists who kidnap and kill innocent people daily.

Despite the extension of deadlines, many phone lines are yet to be linked. Three years later, it is not clear how much the SIM-NIN connection has helped in fighting insecurity as terrorists have continued to attack Nigerians.

NCC boss,, Aminu Maida spoke on the eve of the disconnection deadline saying “Pre-registered or illegally registered SIM has been a challenge for a long time. In 2021, there was a policy to link NIN with SIMs thinking that such will take care of the problem but people in the value chain lashed out on loopholes.”

He added that the commission will hold telecom service providers accountable for service delivery to customers.

“You are going to see a change in the way we make decisions; we are going to be very data-driven. All our decisions are going to be backed up by data as much as possible. We want to reduce subjectiveness and make the right decisions that will improve the industry.

“We intend to hold our licensees accountable for all services. After all, the consumers pay for the services and they expect the service to be at a certain level or point so we will be holding our licensees accountable to ensure they deliver on their obligations to their licenses.

“We need to put smiles back on the faces of consumers. NCC is clear on this; we need to protect the interest of consumers. They remain number one because that is where you extract values from. Yet, the interest of licensed operators will also be protected while we put eyes on their activities to see the level of compliance,” he said.

He explained that the commission would focus more on the consumer, government and licensees and the industry.

“The commission also will be driven by the recognition that we have primarily three critical stakeholders in the industry. These are the consumers of telecom services, the industry and the licensees. The topmost are the internet service providers (ISPs), submarine-landed cable companies, and all of the licensees of the commission and last but not least, the government,” he said SIM has been a challenge for a long time. In 2021, there was a policy to link NIN with SIMs thinking that such will take care of the problem but people in the value chain lashed out on loopholes.”

He added that the commission will hold telecom service providers accountable for service delivery to customers.

“You are going to see a change in the way we make decisions; we are going to be very data-driven. All our decisions are going to be backed up by data as much as possible. We want to reduce subjectiveness and make the right decisions that will improve the industry.

“We intend to hold our licensees accountable for all services. After all, the consumers pay for the services and they expect the service to be at a certain level or point so we will be holding our licensees accountable to ensure they deliver on their obligations to their licenses.

“We need to put smiles back on the faces of consumers. NCC is clear on this; we need to protect the interest of consumers. They remain number one because that is where you extract values from. Yet, the interest of licensed operators will also be protected while we put eyes on their activities to see the level of compliance,” he said.

He explained that the commission would focus more on the consumer, government and licensees and the industry.

“The commission also will be driven by the recognition that we have primarily three critical stakeholders in the industry. These are the consumers of telecom services, the industry and the licensees. The topmost are the internet service providers (ISPs), submarine-landed cable companies, and all of the licensees of the commission and last but not least, the government,” he said

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DOUBLE CELEBRATION FOR REPS’ OPPOSITION LEADER; KINGSLEY CHINDA

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BY BOLAJI AFOLABI

In 2011, when Duncan Mighty; one of Nigeria’s gifted, creative musician sang “Port Harcourt First Son” it became an instant hit. The uniqueness and ingenuity displayed by the Niger Delta-born social activist-cum-crooner attracted wide listenership and groundswell commendation as it arguably became a “regional anthem” at parties in the “Treasure Base” – moniker for Rivers, and in other neighboring states.

The polyglot musician who recently revealed in news interview his decision to pursue a PhD; in addition to his M.Sc Acoustic from Freiburg University, Germany, highlighted glowing and graceful features of the “Garden City” which consistently makes it inviting, alluring, and endearing to residents and visitors.

He reeled out and eulogised some personalities who are originally “son of the soil” from the Rivers/Bayelsa sub-zone of the Niger Delta region. Nyesom Wike; Rotimi Amaechi; O.C.J. Okocha; Magnus Abe; Tonye Harry; Timi Alaibe; Oscar Igbokwe; Tonye Princewill; Dumo Lulu-Briggs; Tony Mc Pepple and few others were mentioned. Though he released other songs including “Ahamefuna,” “Obianuju,” “Dance For Me” none matched the lyrical depth, vocal strength, production expertise and marketing success of “Port Harcourt First Son.”

Over a decade after, there may be compelling reasons and growing need for the multi- talented artiste to do a follow-up. Given the vagaries of political and economic development in the oil-rich state that has thrown up new achievers, personalities, and stakeholders, it has become expedient for an encore to the hugely successful song. Realizing the natural flair of the musician for intellectual robustness, indepth research, and discoveries, one will not be surprised if he is in the studio already working towards that.

Indeed, when this happens, one name that will feature prominently is Rt. Hon. Kingsley Chinda, Leader of Opposition in Nigeria’s House of Representatives. In over two decades, the Ikwerre-born politician who came into public service as Rivers state Commissioner for Environment in the mid 2000s, has risen from being a state-wide personality to national prominence and country-wide relevance. The deep-thinking, intelligent and brilliant lawmaker who decades back was a foremost student union leader, has contributed immensely to the proper positioning and elevated status of Rivers in national discourse within and without the National Assembly.

Having acquitted himself creditably as superintendent of the state’s Environment Ministry, he was nominated, and subsequently elected as the representative of Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency under the platform of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in 2011. He thus became a member of the 7th Assembly of the House of Representatives.

The 7th House of Representatives, which ran from June 2011 to June 2015, stands-out as the golden years of Nigeria’s legislature in the Fourth Republic. The House, at plenary, committees’ sittings, and oversight functions truly merited it’s sobriquet as the “House of Nigerian People.” Members; particularly new and first-termers exuded rare character, capacity, competence, and confidence in the discharge of their responsibilities.

With no measure of undue influence and subtle guidance by presiding officers and the leadership, Members engaged in robust, informed, and elevated debates on every burning national issue. As a result of it’s vibrancy, passion, and commitment to national development, the House endeared itself to majority of Nigerians. Chinda, who was Deputy Chairman, Committee on Customs was one of the outstanding Members in the 7th House of Representatives, and the National Assembly in general. He and few others including TeeJay Yusuf; Aliyu Madaki; Bimbo Daramola; Nkem Abonta; Karibo Nadu; Aminu Suleiman; Ibrahim Shehu Gusau contributed largely to the success and positive ratings of the 7th House.

In recognition of this and more, the good people of Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency re-wrote history to show that “a prophet can have (and receive) honour in his homestead.” For the educated, industrious, and dynamic people of arguably the richest federal constituency, their son has tonnes of honour, integrity, and acceptability at home. To demonstrate this, a two-pronged event was organized to celebrate Chinda.

The ceremonies kicked off with a “special birthday service” at St. Martins Anglican Church, Elelewon, Port Harcourt. The second leg; “grand reception” held at another classy location in the capital city. Attendance at both events confirmed Chinda’s status as a crowd puller, loved by many; admirers and adversaries. While he is always celebrated by his loyalists, friends, and associates, his competitors and opponents cannot help but acknowledge the power of his mind, thought-process, unassailable elocution, commitment, determination, and patriotic zeal.

In over one decade as a federal parliamentarian, Chinda has unmistakably distinguished himself as one of the leading lights of Nigeria’s legislature, and a veritable vanguard for the country’s democratic development. He is a great mind who chooses to be simple, humble and easy going; erroneously interpreted as arrogance and stand-offish by some people.

Due to his spartan and secluded lifestyle, he looks withdrawn, on-my-own, and somewhat laid-back but beneath is a kind, gentle, tender-hearted and altruistic personality. Gifted with unusual calmness and quiet comportment, Chinda is imbued with uncommon empathetic principles anchored on sincerity, selflessness, contentment and love. His commitment and loyalty to true friendship and group interest is unequivocal, inspiring and challenging.

As a well-educated and properly nurtured lawmaker, he deplores his past (and present) experiences and exposures as a student activist, advocate and attorney to bear in his legislative duties, functions and responsibilities. At every forum; public or private, formal or informal he exudes brilliance, intelligence and discipline. He demonstrates top-level knowledge, profound understanding and enviable excellence on issues with masterful grace and magisterial composure. In few interactions with him, the writer was able to decipher he is a largely misunderstood personality who has unrestrained dedication to hard work, unapologetic diligence and exemplary stewardship.

At the 8th Assembly between June 2015 and June 2019, as Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Chinda demonstrated true leadership as he appropriately situated the committee’s relevance in the management and monitoring of national resources. For a committee that was feared and loathed by appointees and employees of the executive arm of government due to numerous instances of high-handedness and unsavory tendencies, Chinda changed the narratives.

During his leadership, he successfully re-directed and re-packaged the committee’s focus and responsibilities. Chinda and members of the committee enthroned the culture of proper, result-driven oversight of MDAs as enshrined in the House rule book. Without being confrontational, he ensured invited Heads of MDAs honoured invites, and complied with directives by updating their records in line with extant rules. Also, for the first time since the Fourth Republic, the committee succeeded in automating records of activities, actions, findings, and resolutions.

Cognisant and impressed with Chinda’s sterling performances in the parliament, constituency development, and national discourse which has greatly elevated the position of Rivers state in the National Assembly, the dual-event was organized as a mark of honour, recognition and endorsement for a worthy son of Obio/Akpor, and Rivers. It was also a veritable platform to further the constituents unflinching allegiance to a man whom they have invested their electoral franchise since 2011.

Little wonder the “talk of the city” event was colourful and glamorous; fitting for a star-performer. As a people’s man who has undying passion for humanity, people of different categories and status thronged the church and reception venue. Aside dignitaries, influential personalities, politicians, professionals and top-players in the private sector, the every day, normal and ordinary Nigerian across Port Harcourt were in attendance. The admixture of the high, medium and low further exemplifies and validates Chinda as a leveler; always at home with people.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon.Tajudeen Abass, PhD, led over three dozens Members to the reception. In his entourage were Ali Isa, Minority Whip; Aliyu Madaki, Deputy Minority Leader; Fred Agbedi, Chairman, Committee on FCT Area Councils; Abdulsamad Dasuki, Chairman, Committee on Shipping Services; Kwamoti Laori, Chairman, Committee on Co-operation & Integration in Africa; Amos Magaji, Chairman, Committee on Health Institutions; Salman Idris, Deputy Chairman, Committee on Agriculture Colleges & Institutions, and many others. Acknowledging and espousing the stabilizing role of Chinda in the parliament, Speaker Abbas declared that the self-effacing and intellectually sound lawmaker “remains one of the very best products in National Assembly, and ever since he steeped into the legislature he has been given Rivers state quality representation. He is indeed, an invaluable asset to Nigeria’s legislature.”

In their various comments on the celebrant, Ali Isa corroborated Speaker Abbas thus, “Chinda’s deep knowledge of the laws, spirit, and working of the legislature is second to none. His cool comportment and matured temperament no matter the pressure and timelines is simply amazing.” Aliyu Madaki averred that “Chinda as an indomitable lawmaker and altruistic personality are very obvious as he selflessly contributes towards making other lawmakers and colleagues function better.” For Kwamoti Laori, “he is not only forthright and open-minded but keeps to his word at all times.”

Personalities from Rivers state at the reception included Chief Nyesom Wike, FCTA Minister; Rt. Hon. Martin Amaewhule, Speaker, Rivers state House of Assembly; Chief Victor Giadom, All Progressives Congress (APC) National Vice Chairman, South South; Ambassador Desmond Akawor, Member, Revenue Mobilisation & Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC); Chief O.C.J. Okocha, SAN, former President, Nigerian Bar Association, and numerous others. Wike eulogised Chinda’s loyal, dependable, reliable and fidelity credentials, “he is a straight forward, sincere, and frank politician who is not only committed but ready, willing to sacrifice for the success of group interest and individuals good. His loyalty and firmness to the pursuit and realization of mutually agreed decisions stands him out.”

To add panache and glitz to the reception were some Members of the Rivers state caucus in the House of Representatives including Dumnamene Dekor, Chairman, Committee on Host Communities; Solomon Bob, Chairman, Committee on Capital Market & Institutions; Kelechi Nwogu, Deputy Chairman, Committee on Agriculture Production & Services; Felix Uche, Deputy Chairman, Committee on Information, Orientation, Ethics & Values, and others. Members of Rivers state caucus in the 8th and 9th Assembly also attended. On ground to offer solidarity and comradeship with Chinda were about 20 former Members of the House of Representatives; not from Rivers state. They included his friends and confidants such as Chukwuka Onyema; Rimamnde Shawulu; TeeJay Yusuf; Emma Ekong; Uche Onyeagocha; Muraina Ajibola. Barristers Chuma Chinye, Abdu Mahmud, and other friends were visibly present.

On the sidelines of the reception, some friends of the celebrant volunteered their thoughts about the quintessential lawmaker. According to Barrister Chuma Chinye, “Chinda is very knowledgeable and reels out educative and enlightened perspectives to any issue under focus.” Rt. Hon. Chukwuka Onyema, a former House Deputy Minority Leader describes him as “forthright, sincere, tolerant, and imbued with integrity and capacity for hard work.” For Rt. Hon. TeeJay Yusuf, former Chairman, Committee on Capital Market & Institutions, Chinda at all times speaks, “truth with robustness and profound candour.”

In similar vein, Rt. Hon. Rimamnde Shawulu, former Chairman, Committee on Army averred that, “he demonstrates conviction, clarity of purpose, and frank disposition on issues.” Rt. Hon. Emma Ekong, former Chairman, Committee on Local Content declared that on every assignment, “Chinda deplores character, competence and capacity, as well as dedication, diligence, and determination.”

In his brief, touching and inspiring vote of thanks, an obviously enthralled, enthused, and excited Rt. Hon. Kingsley Chinda who apparently charmed and captivated by the outpouring of love, good wishes and prayers confessed that he was “overwhelmed by the large turn out of people who decided to honour me on this occasion.” Confessing that he hardly celebrates birthdays, “but had no choice when my constituents and friends decided to mark this year’s with such big ceremonies.”

Grateful and appreciative for the continued support he has enjoyed from constituents, leaders, elders, friends, colleagues, and associates in his political odyssey, he promised to “re-dedicate my time and energies towards the general well being of not only my constituents but including Rivers state and Nigeria. Just as I have remained steadfast and passionate in improving the lives of people, I pledge to double and deepen my efforts and interventions in every way possible towards the individual and corporate development of our communities, state, and Nigeria.”

 

* BOLAJI AFOLABI, a Development Communication Specialist writes from Abuja

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As we continue the wait for 5G services

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By Sonny Aragba-Akpore

Nikolai Gogol’s “The Inspector General “ told a story many years ago that resonates today.

Apart from painting a picture of mockery in his satirical rendition, it tells us about the frailty of humanity and its foibles despite the pretences.

Ben Jonson,s “ Volpone” brings the story home and giggles at its consequences as capsulated by the hunchback displaying greed and pretentious lifestyle in society.

But more instructive is Gogol,s “The Inspector General “ which depicts deception in its entirety.

In 1978,Nigerian playwright, a very big example of his generation, Femi Osofisan, published
“Who is Afraid of Solarin” adapted from Gogol’s “The Inspector General “ and brought the story home painting a lurid picture of the deception that goes on in government.

Osofisan never envisaged our present state of affairs but his picture of the future was clear for all to see as we experience today.

But was he a visionary, who could predict the things to come. Perhaps so.

Solarin as a public complaints commissioner in the old western state was revered by all and his name struck awe in society as he had his eyes on integrity and so like Gogol’s character, Solarin was a change agent.

But Ofcourse many people used his name, dropped it in order to create awe on society, hoodwink the people and make them accept “defeat as fate” to quote Osofisan.

What has happened to integrity in public service and how do we situate this in telecommunications services especially with regards to poor quality of service, drop calls and data fleecing yet no one seems to care and questions not being asked and no answers in that regard.

If we have managed to live with the drudgery of poor services, how do we begin the story of fifth generation (5G) telecommunications services which allegedly entered Nigeria nearly three years ago without drawing inference from the pieces of literature highlighted above?

The materials talk about life and everyday living. So are telecommunications services because they are integral parts of everyday living and when government decided to introduce 5G into the country,those familiar with its workings saw it as promises of life abundance.

It’s nearly 30 months since its launch but the noise and euphoria that welcomed it have died down, and the people have little or nothing to show for it except government which was the biggest beneficiary having collected $273.6m each from the three licenced operators and while we await the services ,the government, indeed everyone looks elsewhere for the much hyped 5G to take proper root.

If anything at all, there are pockets of services so far, offered by the three supposed operators for the services: MTN Nigeria, Mafab Communications and Airtel Nigeria but as things stand today, it appears 5G was mere noise and hype as Nigerians await in their various corners for the much talked about 5G services that Karl Toriola, MTN Chief said will be a game changer.

Strangely too,no one is asking questions as to the existence or not of the 5G services.

Have subscribers become so complacent that they have accepted defeat as fate in the face of corporate docility?

Even the once vibrant pressure groups-Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON),Association of Licenced Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria ( ALTON) among others have lost their voices.

Are we now confined to accepting anything simply because we are afraid to face the consequences therefrom if we shout?

Everyone yearns for heaven but afraid of dying. But like Osofisan said somewhere, ”is this death so horrible that we all must compromise with injustice in order to live?”. The future is our judge.

While we agree that providing services is purely a business decision but are business people not in business in their own interests and that of society?

And no one is talking about the services yet nobody is worried or are they experiencing subdued worries until the services come or have they completely given up on the expectation of the services?

On June 19, 2023, the last of the three to acquire the 5G licence, Airtel, kicked off its fifth generation network rollout in four locations, Lagos, Ogun, Rivers and Abuja, and the firm, is targeting coverage of the entire country by the end of the current financial year.

Unsuspecting Nigerians who joined in the excitement of the alleged entry of 5G services are now unsure of their expectations.

Licences were awarded on December 21, 2021 to MTN Nigeria and a little known Mafab Communications. They had a roll out timeline of August 2022 but the regulator granted an extension of five months to Mafab Communications to get ready. Thus the regulator changed the rules in between the game thus sending the first signal that all was not well. There have been several red flags.

MTN tried to weather the storm despite the challenges (even when it will not admit it openly) and “launched” a semblance of 5G services in parts of Nigeria. But that is where the excitement stops. Airtel, a late arrival shows some promises as we wait.

And so, the hype built around 5G has left everyone including the operators and regulators speechless as there is very little tangible evidence of availability of services so far. We have now accepted our fate as the wait goes on.

Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) data show that 5G subscriptions in the country increased to 2.3 million in December 2023.

This, however, represents an insignificant 1.04% of the country’s total active subscriptions for telephone services, which stood at 224.7 million at the end of 2023.

International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Mobile Network Coverage facts and figures 2023 says “Since commercial deployment began in 2019, 5G coverage has increased to reach 40 per cent of the world population in 2023.

Distribution, however, remains very uneven. While 89 per cent of the population in high-income countries is covered by a 5G network, coverage remains limited in low-income countries. Europe boasts the most extensive 5G coverage, with 68 per cent of the population covered, followed by the Americas region (59 per cent) and the Asia-Pacific region (42 per cent). Coverage reaches 12 per cent of the population in the Arab States region and less than 10 per cent in the CIS region (8 per cent) and Africa region (6 per cent).

Ninety per cent of the world population is covered by 4G, and where 5G is not available, this remains a very good alternative. However, 55 per cent of people without access to 4G live in low-income countries. Whereas 95 per cent of the population in high-income and middle-income countries is covered by 4G or above, the proportion drops to 39 per cent in low-income countries, where 3G remains the dominant technology, and often the only technology available to connect to the Internet.”

The overall pace of 5G growth in the country remains sluggish, underscoring the complexities associated with transitioning to next-generation networks.

However, the data showed that 2G subscriptions continued to dominate, representing 57.78 per cent of connections in January 2024.

The ITU recently revealed that Africa maintained the lowest 5G coverage rate globally, standing at only 6 per cent as of December 2023.

It attributed the low 5G coverage rate on the continent to the ongoing significance of older mobile technologies, particularly 2G and 3G networks.

The ITU report highlighted the persistent reliance on 2G and 3G networks in many African countries, including Nigeria, where those technologies offer a cost-effective means of delivering essential mobile services, especially in regions lacking access to 4G and 5G networks.

In 2022, around one tenth of all connections worldwide used 5G technology, with this share set to surpass one half by the end of the decade. However, regional disparity is expected to persist, with the availability of 5G infrastructure, high costs imposed by network operators, and the availability of 5G handsets continuing to impact consumer uptake.

The North America, Developed Asia Pacific, and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) regions are set to have surpassed 90 percent adoption by 2030, while adoption in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to remain below 20 percent.

However, it has been suggested that 5G could play a key role in bridging the digital divide in the form of fixed wireless access (FWA).

5G FWA services use 5G networks to deliver high speed broadband internet in regions without fixed broadband infrastructure. As of 2023, almost a third of service providers in the Middle East and Africa offered a 5G FWA service.

The Global System Mobile Association (GSMA) says by 2025, 5G networks are likely to cover one-third of the world’s population. The impact on the mobile industry and its customers will be profound.

5G is more than a new generation of technologies; it denotes a new era in which connectivity will become increasingly fluid and flexible.

5G Networks will adapt to applications and performance will be tailored precisely to the needs of the user.

Working closely with the mobile operators pioneering 5G, the GSMA is engaging with governments, vertical industries including automotive, financial services, healthcare providers, transport operators, utilities and other industry sectors to develop business cases for 5G.

5G remains an exciting new technology that consumers and service providers are bracing up for.

5G statistics reveal projected volume growth for 5G smartphones as well as for revenue for 5G chipsets. Leading original equipment manufacturers are also beefing up 5G patents in a bid to be first in the 5G wars.

There are currently hundreds of millions of 5G global subscriptions. Subscriptions are forecast to reach three billion by 2025. (5G Americas and Omdia, 2021)

As of April 2021, there were 683 total 5G and Long Term Evolution (LTE) deployments made worldwide. (5G Americas and Omdia, 2021)

There are currently 135 5G networks around the world that comply with 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards. (5G Americas, 2020)

5G smartphone shipments comprised 40% of global volume by 2021. This is expected to grow to 69% in 2025. (IDC, 2021)

In 2021, there were 89.5 million 5G smartphone units shipped to the United States. 5G smartphone shipments will reach 153.3 million units in 2025, at a CAGR of 35.6%.

Consumer electronics and automotive applications are forecast to both have a 21.7% share of the 5G infrastructure by 2025. Meanwhile, industrial apps will have a 20.1% share while energy and utilities will have a 15.7% share. (Statista, 2020)

The 5G chipset market reached $3.55 billion in 2021 and $22.86 billion by 2027, at a CAGR of 41%. (Statista, The Insight Partners)

Samsung has a 74% market share of the 5G smartphone market in the US. This is followed by LG at 15% and OnePlus at 11%.

Huawei has a 15.39% share of 5G families with patents. Huawei is followed by Qualcomm (11.24%), ZTE (9.81%), and Samsung (6.7%).

Data presented by Bankr indicates that the 5G technology global coverage will grow by 253.84% in the next five years. By 2025, about 53% of the global population at 4.14 billion will have access to the technology.

Few regions are driving 5G technology uptake
In 2021, the network coverage reached an estimated 1.95 billion people representing about 25% of the global population. In the last two years, the network access progressed to 32% of the global population at 2.5 billion.

In 2023, 5G network reached about 39% of the global population at 3.05 billion people. By 2024, an estimated 46% of the global population at 3.6 billion will be using the network.

According to the research report: “The over one billion access to 5G coverage in 2020 is a culmination of a joint clear consensus on the 5G network by major players in recent years. The coverage is significant however, it is being driven by a select few regions in Asia, the US, and Europe.

Other regions are still building the infrastructure to accommodate the technology. Notably, Asia is a current leader in 5G after undergoing a rapid migration in mobile broadband networks and smartphones setting the perfect ground for 5G adoption.”

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Opinion

The Police And Akpabio’s Sermon On The Mount

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By Hon Eseme Eyiboh

84-year-old renowned Belgian painter and writer, Erik Pervernagie, says: “People die from lack of shared empathy and affinity. By establishing social connectedness, we give hope a chance and the other can become heaven (“Le ciel c’est l’autre”).

No institution has been so disparaged and stigmatised as the Nigeria Police. It is treated with so much contempt and neither appreciated nor celebrated. Rather, anything bad or despicable is attributed to the police. An average policeman is held in utmost and never enjoys any empathy or affinity from most Nigerians. Although the police are the friend of the people, the mutual reciprocity from the people is seemingly non-existent. The compensation is abysmal while the motivation is infinitesimal.

That is why in its years of existence, no one has remembered to honour its men and officers who have excelled in their professional outings until the coming of IGP Olukayode Egbetokun. Hence, the maiden edition of the Nigeria Police Awards and Commendations Ceremony held in Abuja last Monday was long overdue and an emotion-laden event. This was the first time the Nigeria Police celebrated itself by recognising gallantry, rewarding excellence and professionalism, thereby boosting the morale of officers and men, which has over the decades been at an all-time low.

By this maiden award, the present Inspector General of Police has jump-started a new Nigeria Police Force whose personnel are ethically compliant, professionally focused, and stable with a strong reward culture and post-service incentives. The IGP has also, through this event, instituted a reward system and reputation management process that will ultimately change the general perception our people hold about the Nigeria Police. Going forward, the men and officers of the force will be motivated and energised to give their all in spite of the negative reception from the public and compete to be recognised and honoured.

Putting the icing on the cake was the effervescent President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, CON, who stole the show. It was, however, devoid of an elaborate sense of humour or trademark jokes nor hilarious laughter. It was the underpin of the inspirational remarks by the number one Legislator in Nigeria.

In a delivery reminiscent of the oratory of a Barrack Obama, Luther King, William Churchill or Nelson Mandela, Akpabio’s speech evinced the feelings of empathy and affinity. Call it Sermon on the Mount, and you will be damn right! Because he gave the Nigeria Police Force a thump-up for the timely, strategic, and innovative strategies it has adopted in the cutting-edge reputation management of the organisation and the morale-boosting initiative adopted to foster professionalism, innovations, competition, and courage amongst its workforce.

The admonition of Senator Akpabio falls within the prism of constructive stakeholders’ engagement and an urgent demand to integrate the force into a citizen-police cubicle. Drawing allusions from the Holy Books (the Bible and Koran) to drive home his message, Akpabio said, “I see hope in today’s event. The story is told of how Prophet Elijah (known in the Koran as Ilyās), after three and a half years of drought, asked his attendant to go and look for a rain cloud. After seven attempts, the assistant came back and told him that he had seen a small cloud, the size of a man’s hand. Not minding the size of the cloud, Elijah declared that a torrential downpour was impending”.

Continuing, the Senate President was eclectic: “In this country we have had a deficit of heroes. Not because Nigerians are not heroic but because we do not celebrate our heroes. Yet heroes play a vital role in society through the provision of inspiration, motivation, hope and serving as representations of values and character. Celebrating heroes could bring the much-needed change we need in the fabric of our society and make our country a better place.

“So today, I can see in this award ceremony a small rain cloud, the size of the hand of a man. But I declare, like Elijah, that out of this event shall come a mighty downpour of recognition of heroes and heroines in all sectors of the public service, law enforcement and allied service”.

Delving into the literary world, Akpabio navigated the thoughts of one America’s finest naturalist, essayist, poet and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau. He said, “It is apt that the police should set the ball rolling for us in this hero’s recognition affair. Many have sought to hang the police to dry for all our many vices. But the truth of the matter is that the police are all members of our society. Down the ages the popular philosophical thinking was that man could not be better than the society because the society makes the man, socialises man, and orients him with a sense of right and wrong. But Henry David Thoreau came with a counter narrative that man can surpass societal limitations, and rise above societal norms and expectations”.

According to Akpabio, “This is what the police are trying to do with this event under the current leadership. This leadership understands that the role of the police in a democracy cannot be overstated. They are the custodians of law and order, and they ensure the safety and security of the citizens.“

In a democratic society, it is imperative that the police uphold the highest ethical standards in carrying out their duties. They are entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the rights and liberties of the people, while maintaining law and order.

“Once again, I commend the police for this maiden effort in organising this awards ceremony. It is a testament to IGP Egbetokun’s commitment to giving honour to whom it is due. By recognising the gallant, selfless, and patriotic contributions of individual officers, will not only motivate them for higher performance but also reinforce the new policing agenda of the force. This agenda focuses on internal ethical regeneration, restoration of professional standards, and the enhancement of the anti-corruption drive”.

He left some words of admonition: “However, let us not ignore the challenges faced by the police in Nigeria. The ever-evolving landscape of crime and the increasing sophistication of criminal gangs pose significant obstacles. More so, as we honour the good officers, let us weed out the bad ones because a chain is as strong as its weakest link. We must address these issues and work together to find solutions. The police need the support and cooperation of all stakeholders, to overcome these challenges and build a stronger and more effective police force.

“I congratulate the awardees who have excelled in their respective fields of policing. Their dedication, bravery, and integrity have set them apart and made them deserving of this recognition. I commend every one of them for their outstanding performance and commitment to the service of our nation. I urge them to remember that to whom much is given, much is expected.“

As the leader of the National Assembly, I pledge our full cooperation and support for the better policing of Nigeria. We recognize the importance of a well-equipped and motivated police force in ensuring the security and well-being of our citizens. We will continue to work tirelessly to provide the necessary legislative framework and resources to enable the police to carry out their duties effectively”.

This is what our institutions need now, this is the quality Nigeria is looking for and the leaders that deserve to be at the helm of affairs. Senator Akpabio was generous in the act and in the heart of his personal support to the families of the posthumous awardees.

Hon Eseme Eyiboh is the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity and the official Spokesperson to the President of the Senate.

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