Monday, July 12, 2010

Nigeria - Worry about the delays in replacing Ndukwe as head of the regulator who retired on 2nd April

[Daily Independent] Nigerians are worried about the delay in the appointment of a substantive Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) for the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), after the retirement of the former on April 2, 2010.

The exit of Ernest Ndukwe from active service, who once held sway as the EVC of NCC from February 2, 2000 to April 2, 2010, did not come as a surprise to him, neither did it come as a surprise to the Federal Government who was in the know that Ndukwe would retire April 2, 2010.

Nigerians had expected that government would appoint a replacement, months before the April 2, 2010 exit date of Ndukwe, to give room for proper grooming and handover from the outgoing to the incoming EVC, but such high expectations were dashed, as government kept mum over the matter.

Months before his exit, Ndukwe sent names of possible nominees to the Federal Government for his replacement, as it is a matter of policy and custom for the incumbent EVC to do so on behalf of the NCC, but such long standing custom and policy of NCC were not considered by the government who kept the list of NCC's three nominees in the cooler without taking any action. However, in order not to stay longer than necessary, Ndukwe took a wise decision of handing over to Stephen Bello, the most senior Executive Commissioner as Acting EVC, and left April 2, 2010, when the ovation was loudest.

Three months after Ndukwe left office as NCC's EVC, government is yet to appoint a substantive EVC for NCC, a situation that has forced the once bubbling NCC to move away from the fast lane as it were to a confined area were it is just struggling to get relevance. Not much has been seen of the NCC unlike the days of Ndukwe, where the NCC was always making the news in newspapers and magazines, the reason being that there is a limit to what Acting EVC could do in terms of executing policies and decisions that will move the regulatory body forward.

As if the worries of Nigerians were not enough to move government into appointing a substantive EVC, Nigerians woke up penultimate week to read the reaction of Telecom Integrity Watch Group over the directive of government, mandating the former Acting EVC (Stephen Bello) to handover to another Acting EVC (Bashir Gwandu), who was before now the Executive Commissioner in charge of Standards.

According to the group, just as Bello was trying to settle down as the Acting EVC of NCC, he received a letter from the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communication, mandating him to handover power to the next senior Executive Commissioner on the ground of over age. The letter was dated June 21, 2010. Worried by the content of the letter, the group, in a paid advertorial, faulted the letter from the permanent secretary and insisted that Bello ceased to be a civil servant the very day he was made Executive Commissioner and that his position as Executive Commissioner was by appointment, which has nothing to do with the Civil Service rule of compulsory retirement at 60 years for all civil servants.

The group alleged that the process negates how an Executive Commissioner would be removed from office and that Bello cannot be removed from office as the Acting EVC of NCC, by a letter from the permanent secretary of the ministry.

Reacting, President of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Titi Omo-Ettu, faulted the idea of an Acting EVC handing over to another Acting EVC, instead of government appointing a substantive EVC for NCC.

Nigerians have been asking why it is difficult for government to appoint a substantive EVC for NCC that will control the affairs of NCC without any form of restrictions, but are yet to get the necessary answer.

Although Bello had since obeyed government directives and has handed over to Gwandu, Nigerians are of the opinion that government should announce Gwandu as the substantive EVC or look else where, provided Nigeria has a substantive EVC of NCC who will give proper direction in terms of regulatory affairs for the nation's telecom industry.

It is the general belief that NCC would better maintain its past credibility with Gwandu as the EVC or any other personality that government may deem fit to handle such an elated position.

Nigerians have therefore called on the Federal Government to act fast in appointing a substantive EVC for NCC in order to save NCC from going the way of NITEL.

Appointment of NCC's EVC, a Task Before FG

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