Paul Usoro speaks on the Nigerian Communications Act 2003-Highlights the gains

Paul Usoro (SAN)

Paul Usoro(SAN) was a speaker at the NCC Board & Management Retreat  on Friday in Abuja speaking on the theme “NCC and the Law – Echoes from the Nigerian Communications Act.

Mr Usoro who is a well known communications lawyer in Nigeria and who was also instrumental to the Nigerian Communication Act (NCA )in his presentation  spoke on the Innovative Provisions of NCA, Innovative Regulatory Structures in NCA 2003, NCC’s Corporate Structure in NCA 2003, Similarities between NCC’s Corporate Structure in NCA 2003 and NCC’s Code of Corporate Governance for the Telecommunications

In his paper he journeyed into and explored the minds and recesses of the Legislators in enacting the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003 (“NCA”) and explored the distinctive features of the Act while highlighting the ennobling and outstanding characteristics of the Act.In doing so he brought the 2003  Act and the preceding  1992 Act in comparison.

According to Mr Usoro , the NCA 2003 was drafted at a time that convergence – in all its ramifications – was already entrenched in different administrations and NCA 2003 was titled and drafted with convergence – technology, content, regulation, etc. – in mind.

The Intention was to fast-track convergence through legislation.

While the NCC Act 1992 essentially established the Commission and had very scanty provisions on its operations and functions having nothing in the Act to suggest or propose convergence howsoever.

The Innovative Provisions of NCA 2003 Include,Licensing provisions mirror convergence – Chapter IV, Powers and Procedures of the Commission – Chapter V,Regulatory Provisions – Economic Regulation, Consumer Affairs (Quality of Service, Tariff Regulation, USP etc.)and Technical Regulation – Chapters VI, VII and VIII, General Provisions – Jurisdiction, Offences, Powers of Entry, Emphasis was placed consistently on transparency, liberalization of the sector and promotion of competition as well as protection of consumers. While  the NCC Act 1992 did not have these clearly defined and explicit provisions howsoever

He pointed out that Innovative Regulatory Structures in NCA 2013 include Functions of the Minister and National Frequency Management Council –Chapter III,  USP – Board, Functions and definitions of unserved areas,underserved areas and underserved groups and the emphasis consistently placed on transparency and corporate governance

In NCC Act 1992 these were not at all well defined in NCC Act.

NCC Board & Management Retreat

Prior to NCA 2013, there was neither a Frequency Council nor clearly defined functions for the Minister and NCC, No statutorily defined structures for USP nor definitions for USP provisioning

On the NCC’s Corporate Structure in NCA 2013,he pointed out that  Long before corporate governance became the Nigerian buzz word, NCA 2003 had entrenched it in the corporate structure of NCC  defining Board and its functions as distinct from Management and day-to-day operations of the Commission, the  EVC as CEO and responsible for day-to-day management and supervision of the Commission assisted by ECs, Board oversees and sets out policies and decisions that are executed by executive management

The NCC Act 1992 in fairness, had similar provisions but not as well defined as we have in the NCA

In dealing with the Similarities between NCC’s Corporate Structure in NCA 2003 and NCC’s Code of Corporate Governance for Communications Industry, he listed the bullet points below

  • Section 5 – Establishment of Board, membership and functions
  • Sections 12-13 – EVC and ECs and their functions.
  • Section 8(3) – “All Commissioners except the CE and the ECs, shall hold office on part-time basis”.
  • These structures mirror global corporate governance standards

where Boards oversee management and set standards, targets, goals and policies while management executes.

NCC’s Code of Corporate Governance

  • Section 2-3 – Board of Directors; Responsibilities and Functions
  • Section 7.2-7.3 – CEO/MD and his functions. EDs and their functions
  • Sections 7.4-7.6 – NEDs, Independent Directors and Chairman/CEO Duality
  • Not surprisingly, NCC Code mirrors NCA structures thus placing NCC on the moral high ground as an institution that practices what it preaches.

Fourteen years after its enactment, NCA 2003 has stood the test of time and endured. Its provisions are as prescient today as they were when they were enacted. Adherence to its provisions make for efficient regulation of the sector as well as efficient administration and operation of the Commission, Some provisions – e.g. convergence in technology, content and regulation – are yet to be implemented or fully/property implemented but hope stays alive that with time and the will, they can and will be implemented.

 

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