Nigeria: Regulator Sees Telecommunications As Fundamental Human Right

THE world today continues on a path of remarkable technological change in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) domain. ICT is the lifeblood of organisations and essential for innovation and continuous learning, while at the same time essential for any individual that is attempting to understand and manage his or her intellectual capital, often in a global context.

Indeed, for students of law, a listing of the fundamental human rights of a human being would include the right to life, the right to freedom of association and the right to freedom of expression among others.

 These are the rights that inalienable to man. Because a man is born with these rights, they are not subject to negotiation.

However, in a digital era when many activities are migrating to the virtual space; having these rights doesn’t seem to guarantee the enjoyments. In recognition of the limitations of the rights, efforts are now on to expand the frontiers of the fundamental rights of a man.

This came to the fore at a forum hosted by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), in Abuja, held to enlighten telecommunications subscribers about how to enjoy the new life that has come with mobile telecommunication revolution in Nigeria.

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At the forum, Director of Public Affairs at NCC, Tony Ojobo, declared to participants what could have been far-fetched in Nigeria some years ago.

According to the International Telecommunications Union, telecommunications has become a fundamental human right, Ojobo said, adding that NCC was working hard to help Nigerians to enjoy that right along with other citizens of the world.

Ojobo said, “Basically, what we do is to create the enabling environment for telecommunications to grow to be able to provide access. The International Telecommunications Union has indicated that telecommunications has now become a fundamental human right. This means that wherever you are, you should have access.

“When we talk about universal access, we are talking about access to telecommunications within five kilometre radius. So our mandate is to ensure there is access to telecommunications for all Nigerians.

“We also set quality of standards. We ensure compliance to those standards and where it is established there has been breaches; of course, the commission imposes some kind of penalties.”

He added, “When we talk about telecommunications, people talk about the regular voice communications but it goes beyond that to data communications. Now data communication has become key to our lives.

“When you are talking about data communications, you are talking about even the alert you get from your bank when maybe, somebody pays money into your account. It includes the emails; the whatapps; the test messages.

“It includes the transactions you have on the ATM machines. It includes the communications you have with the POS terminals when you go to the supermarket. Now, all of these are services riding on telecommunications. Essentially, what we are saying is that telecommunication is life and it has affected the way we live daily.

“Let me inform you; the last election we had, all the card readers had SIM cards provided by different networks for the Independent National Electoral Commission to use. So it tells you that telecommunications has become life. You cannot remove it from our daily routine.”

Ojobo said in recognition of the fundamentality of telecommunications to the lives of the people, the Nigerian government has been providing the environment for the networks to expand even as it continues to push the frontiers for the expansion of data communication which he sees as the present and the future of telecommunications.

According to him, this has produced results as subscribers to both voice and data communications continue to grow as indicated by statistics recently released by the communications regulatory agency.

He said, “As at today, the tele-density is 100.45 per cent. And we have 81 million internet users. As at our last statistics in February, 81 million Nigerians are on the internet. We have 145 million active subscribers. That gives an indication of the size of the industry. In other words, our action or inaction affects 145 million subscribers.

“We are talking about subscribers; not people. We recognise that every number is a subscriber whether you have two lines or three lines. Every number is seen as a subscriber. So we have approximately 145 million subscribers and we have about 81 subscribers who are on the internet. Under that 81 million, you have a number of people who are doing a lot on the internet including businesses.

Camilla Wood

UK based Legal Aid Lawyer

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