• Monday, July 15, 2024
businessday logo


FG plans to force down mobile phone prices


The federal government is planning to reduce the cost of internet enabled mobile phone so as to get more Nigerians connected to the internet. Omobola Johnson, minister of communications technology, dropped the hint at an International Forum

On Accelerating Nationwide Broadband Access in Nigeria organised by OpenMedia Group in conjunction with Atlantic Telecoms and Media in Lagos. Speaking during a Ministerial Platform anchored by Esther Ugbodaga of CNBC Africa, the minister said that government is passionate about increasing internet penetration in the country.

The minister disclosed also that Goodluck Jonathan is backing the move by the ministry to de-gazette a law by the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) to impose a two per cent tax on mobile devices in case they are used to infringe on copyright laws in the future and that they will need the money to regulate that.

The minister however urged the private sector to come out with plans on how to manufacture low cost devices that will enable more Nigerians have access to the internet stressing that “reduction in taxes on devices will not increase internet penetration.” She explained, “Penetration goes up when there is relevant content and people see the need to get on the internet and so people will buy a N2000.00 phone if it will get them onto the internet.” The minister assured that she will not advocate for the imposition of taxes on devices while pushing for affordable broadband internet access for Nigerians at same time adding that the Federal Government is poised towards tackling the challenges of broadband access in the country.

According to her, what she sees as challenges are the surmountable issues of policy and cost in the broadband access for the country saying that the four fold broadband plan for the country is achievable, “if all stakeholders work together as a team.” She noted that policy issues are not a challenge to the broadband because the industry has a reliable regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission, which concerned about the growth of the industry. Johnson however observed that what she sees as challenge is the size of the country and getting governments in enter country to implement Federal policies on broadband explaining that it becomes difficult to implement a policy when we have to work with different state governors from different political parties and with different agenda as well as different players in the 36 states of the country.

On the challenges of cost she noted that the National Economic Council (NEC), which include the state governors, have agreed to crash the cost for the Right of Way (ROW) but that when it comes to implementation there is no commitment from the states. The minister noted that in the case of Lagos state where the ministry has recorded a landmark achievement for Right of Way, it had to work with the Ministry of Work, Science and Technology and urban regulatory authority. She disclosed that all states have agreed to crash the cost of ROW and in exchange get access for schools in their domain.

Describing as huge the task of getting all 36 states governor to key into the broadband plan for the nation, she stated that none of the governors are unaware of the great importance of broadband to the growth of the national economy noting however, that what most states are concern about is the need to increase the revenue base of their states.