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Nigeria: New bill seeks more local ownership in Telecoms

A new bill advanced by the House of Representatives seeks to ensure a greater participation of Nigerians in the telecommunications sector and will mandate companies to reserve at least 30% of total shares to Nigerians.

The lawmakers said the bill is designed to foster more local ownership and management of the telecoms sector, which is currently dominated by foreign groups, and an actual transfer of technical capacity that will boost indigenous operations in the sector.

The new, bill titled, “A bill for an Act to make provisions for Nigerians to acquire interest in telecommunications companies carrying on GSM in Nigeria and other matter connected therewith,” and “A bill for an Act to facilitate electronic transactions in Nigeria and other related matters and” were presented for public hearings last week.

While declaring the hearing open, the speaker of the House, Dimeji Bankole, said the Nationa Assembly intend to stimulate local participation in management and ownership of the GSM sub-sector.

He said the question of local content, presently obtained in the oil sector after National Assembly passed its legislation recently, should go beyond the mere acquisition of operational licenses.

“Without the acquisition of appropriate technology, managerial know-how, and enhancing the share of our peoples’ participation in the telecoms industry, the aim of the overall policy on local content will be a mere ritual that will not translate into local ownership of the Nigerian economy,” Mr. Bankole advised.

Culture of efficiency

On the Electronic Transfer bill, the speaker said the intent is to provide a legal framework to facilitate electronic financial transactions in the country in order to institute a culture of “efficiency, transparency and probity”.

The House chairman on Communications, Dave Salako, whose committee is in charge of developing the two bills, said Nigeria’s savings and investments in the nation’s telecommunication industry will help stimulate economic growth.

The bill when passed would mandate all GSM operators to comply with the provisions of the law within one year and six months, respectively.