The executive vice chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, has highlighted the annual operating levy (AOL) as the bedrock of an efficient and effective telecommunications regulatory environment.
Speaking during an industry stakeholder consultative engagement organised by the commission in Abuja, he highlighted the commission’s unwavering commitment to deploy a revenue assurance solution (RAS) in the telecommunication sector to ensure a more robust AOL administration in the industry.
According to him, the RAS application is designed to ensure a linkage with licensed telecommunications operators’ systems and will have the capability of capturing and reporting in near real-time, billing activities by the operators to compute and assure with minimum error margin, the accruable AOL to NCC from the licensees. When deployed, the NCC RAS will bring significant solutions to the industry’s challenges, including more effective and enhanced monitoring and regulation of licensed telecommunications operators.
Danbatta said the event was organised to sensitise industry stakeholders through a conversation on the commission’s plan to deploy RAS that will instil greater transparency and increased accuracy in the administration of AOL in the sector, as stipulated by the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA), 2003.
According to the EVC, since the NCA 2003 came into force and according to Section 72 of the Act, various efforts have been made by the commission towards achieving an effective AOL administration, including the development of AOL Regulations 2014, which is being reviewed.
He said the commission believes that the deployment of appropriate RAS would enhance monitoring and regulatory activities around AOL administration and confer higher levels of integrity and fidelity on the AOL figures obtainable in the industry.
In a contextual recall, Danbatta stated that the need to deploy the most appropriate revenue assurance systems in the Nigerian telecommunications industry began in 2015 when the commission published an invitation to bid for the services, in which 3R Company Nigeria Limited emerged as the preferred bidder. The EVC informed that during the bid process, the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), indicated a ‘no objection’ to the process.
“However, it was reasoned, thereafter, that due to the scope of the project, the solution would be more appropriately procured under a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement. This led to the invitation of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) to guide the process, as mandated by its regulations. Following this, the commission set up a project delivery team (PDT), which worked with a consortium of legal advisers, financial modellers and PPP experts under the guidance of ICRC and took the appropriate steps required under the ICRC Regulations 2005,” he said.
He said part of the process included proper due diligence of the preferred partner, which received a clean bill of health from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) while the commission also subjected the software and hardware components of the proposed RAS to the certification of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
The EVC stated further that the commission recorded a major feat on December 17, 2021, as the transaction received the Certificate of Compliance from the ICRC in line with the provisions of the ICRC Act 2005. “Thus, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami graciously presented the NCC RAS project to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on January 26, 2022, where the final approval was given for the implementation of the solution,” he said.
Underscoring the EVC’s position, the head, special duties, Reuben Muoka, stated that the industry has been waiting for the RAS from the commission. He also signalled that this current regulatory intervention will bring about a multiplier effect on the economy, local content and several other sectors in the Nigerian economy.
Speaking in the same vein, deputy director, technical standards and network integrity, NCC, Edoyemi Ogoh, stated that the approval of the RAS project by the FEC is a major success in finding a transparent process for an independent assessment, validation and completeness of the AOL.
Ogoh said the solution can limit the loss of revenue due to faulty billings, inaccurate or incomplete data and information from service providers, redundantly provided services and frauds. “It will enable the resolution of inconsistencies in billings for services provided by licensed service providers to their subscribers as well as AOL bills from NCC to service providers, resulting in optimum efficiency and accuracy. The RAS would enable the commission to validate the information, records and data supplied to the commission by the licensees,” Ogoh emphasised.