Umar Garba Danbatta – The Top 10 Pillars of Buhari’s Change Agenda

Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, executive vice chairman Nigerian Communications Commission [NCC], is one of the key personalities under the Buhari-led government that have functioned creditably in the building of strong institutions. Since his appointment in 2015, Danbatta has posted a good impression of someone who has a clear idea of the job that needed to be done.

The nation needed someone to reposition NCC as a vital organization in the economy and Danbatta is the man that has fulfilled it.  The man has been widely acclaimed as an example of how good a system functions when government makes the right appointment – a round peg fitted into a round hole.

Money was of essence right from the inception of the present administration when the collapse of crude oil prices brought the economy to the brink of fiscal crisis. Danbatta’s role at NCC has been instrumental in attracting investments into the economy by driving growth of the telecommunications sector. The sector recorded more than $68.2 billion in cumulative investment as at July, 2016 of which foreign direct investment accounted for $35 billion of the investment capital.

He is credited for the development of a regulatory template that has spurred the inflow of huge investment capital into Nigeria’s information and communications technology [ICT] sector as well as internal growth of the sector at a speed unmatched anywhere else in the world. This has earned Nigeria the enviable record of the world’s fastest growing telecomm market for several years running.

Danbatta’s regime at NCC has witnessed a massive internal capacity building that has lifted the Nigerian ICT market to one of the top three in the world. This has been powered by massive inflow of private sector investments into the sector. The impact of this level of growth in the economy has been tremendous in terms new jobs delivered, foreign exchange inflow, massive growth in connected telephone lines and the direct and indirect impacts on the economic and social lives of the nation.

Amidst the differing views about how well the present administration is doing, NCC stands out by any standard as one of the high points on the scoreboard of government. Nigeria’s ICT territory wears the mark of one of the best governed in the world. Danbatta has succeeded in creating an investment climate good enough to draw the huge capital inflow into the ICT sector. This is the result of commitment to regulatory excellence, operational efficiency and industry discipline. The NCC’s chief executive is credited with a regime of transparency and firmness that has succeeded in changing Nigeria’s ICT environment risk ranking from high to low.

The transformation of the Nigerian market into an investor’s haven has won the government and the people of Nigeria a pride of place within the global ICT community. The commission was the winner of European award for best practices in regulation, 2016 presented to it in Brussels with sixty three countries in attendance. NCC’s regulatory template has become a global model, which other countries are asked to study in order to develop their ICT markets.

Danbatta is yet looking ahead to break new grounds and attain new heights in the growth and development of the ICT market in Nigeria. The next milestone is broadband revolution, which is already within reach. NCC has run a programme of action to make broadband connectivity pervasive by 2018.

The commission has since unveiled an 8-point agenda for the sector covering 2015 – 2020. The agenda is anchored on a tripod of availability of service, accessibility of service and affordability of service. Top on the agenda is broadband penetration through deployment of fixed and mobile infrastructures. Improvement of the quality of services is also top on the agenda and optimising usage and benefits of Spectrum will get a good attention, according to his plan of action.

Improving Nigeria’s ability to compete in the global economy is a major objective under the six-year development roadmap. In order to realise the objective, promoting ICT innovation and investment opportunities are part of the 8-point agenda. Strategic collaboration and partnership in the sector are also on the agenda while protecting consumers against unfair practices is equally a key element in the plan.

Promoting fair competition in the marketplace is another point on the agenda, through which the NCC’s boss plans to keep new investments flowing into the ICT sector, roll out new jobs and top up consumer satisfaction. Danbatta’s 8-point agenda also includes strategic steps to sustain the regulatory excellence that has earned the commission global respect and recognition. With the diligent pursuit of the eight-point agenda, Nigeria’s ICT market is set for a new chapter of advancement at the realisation of the development vision in 2020.

In pursuit of consumer satisfaction, NCC has introduced mobile number portability to curb subscribers’ anxiety to change networks. This has made indiscriminate purchasing of SIM cards no longer necessary under mobile number portability. Subscribers can now switch from one network to another and still retain their GSM numbers.

There has also been an effective regulatory response to the menace of unsolicited text messages and calls from mobile network operators. The commission responded by mandating network operators to dedicate a short code for subscribers to opt-in to the ‘do not disturb’ service, which has ensured sanity in the market.

Danbatta’s achievements within the short period he has been in the saddle at NCC have attracted to him and his organization a number of awards. In addition to European Award for Best Practices in 2016, the commission also won the European Award for Quality Research and was equally voted the African Regulator of the Year at the African Information Technology and Telecoms Awards (AITTA), held in Accra, Ghana in 2016.

Danbatta is a recipient of 18 distinguished awards and certificates of honour. He has served two terms of five years each as a member of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria. He was vice president of the Digital Bridge Institute, International Centre for Advanced Communication Studies, which was set up by NCC in 2004 to build capacity for the Nigerian and African telecom industry. The position apparently equipped him for the outstanding success he has made out of his tenure so far at the commission.

Danbatta made the list of Top 10 Magazine’s top 10 CEOs of the year, 2016 in recognition of his numerous accomplishments in the ICT sector regulation, his stewardship in office and the ability to place NCC as one of the best telecom regulatory institutions in the world.