By Constance Athekame
Abuja – The Federal Government says the country will achieve the 30 per cent national broadband penetration by 2018 as projected in the country’s National Broadband Plan.
The Minister of Communications, Mr Adebayo Shittu, disclosed this when he featured at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja.
Shittu said the country had so far achieved between 18 to 20 per cent penetration as a result of private sector initiatives.
The minister said government was encouraging all GSM and ICT companies to invest in the communication sector to expand the broadband penetration.
He said the government was also encouraging a number of initiatives, including foreign companies coming to invest in the country, who had expressed interest.
“I have had the privilege of attending a number of international platforms where I met a lot of them as the chief marketer of the industry.
“The ministry of communications is not into business, government has no business in business, what the ministry does is to provide an enabling environment for operators and industry entrepreneurs to be encouraged to invest.
“When I say entrepreneur, it is not only Nigerian entrepreneurs even the foreign entrepreneurs.
“Already, the rate at which we are now, we are about 18 to 20 per cent penetration and all of this is mostly as a result of private sector initiative.
“I am very confident that by the Grace of God within the next two years, we will reach the target of 30 per cent,’’ he said.
On the recent proposed data tariff increase, Shittu said the matter was almost sorted out.
He said that he was not part of the initiative as the issue was between the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the companies.
“When it happened, a lot of people accused me of taking money from these companies, so I have to explain the role I played and you would recall that the Senate because of the uproar that greeted the issue called stakeholders meeting.’’
The minister said that it was at that meeting that it became clear that what was said to be newly introduced had actually been the rate suspended years ago.
“The rate was agreed three years ago but perhaps because of uproar at the time it was suspended. The rate was 90 kobo and what is in operation is now is 55kobo.
“And a lot of people out of mischief said that it was a 250 per cent increase but it was from 55 kobo to 90 kobo and if you don’t use it at all you don’t pay anything.’’
Shittu said it was after the Senate summoned all stakeholders and they provided facts and information that it became clear that data issue was on before it was later suspended.
According to him, the GSM companies said they were groaning under the burden of debt, that was why they needed the increase.
“The Senate understood that and said NCC and others ought to have engaged with members of the public and put all information in the public domain before announcing the increase,’’ he said.