MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
Amidst the multiple challenges associated with the new digital technology particularly as it affects the financial sector, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Zenith Bank Plc, Mr. Ebenezer Onyeagwu has called on Nigerian government to introduce compulsory digital education in our school systems so that people can effectively learn how to cope with the new technology order.
This is even as the former Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) Dr. Ernest Ndukwe has paid glowing tribute to former President Olusegun Obasanjo for promoting telecoms revolution in Nigeria.
Speaking on the theme “Telecommunications as a catalyst for financial inclusion” at a one-day special summit organized by Compact Communications Limited as part of activities marking 20 years of Telecommunications Revolution in Nigeria, which held on Thursday at Muson Centre, Lagos, Onyeagwu noted that in spite of the great advantages brought by the digital technology to the financial space, many Nigerians are digitally illiterate and immature.
According to the Zenith Bank Boss, since the telecommunications revolution which began in 2001 with the advent of the Global System for Mobile (GSM) telecommunications in Nigeria, there has been a quantum leap in the number of Nigerians who have access to telecoms seevices but regrettably, not having the literacy and maturity to cope with the dynamics.
While appraising the journey so far, Onyeagwu pointed out that currently, financial inclusion has become part of the new telecommunications order as transactions occuring digitally have grown exponentially; whereas the use of cheque has continued to decline. “Transactions by cheque are already insignificant. The digital transactions are made possible by telecommunications” he emphasised.
Elaborating the many advantages telecommunication has brought to the financial sector in contemporary time, the top banker enthusiastically pointed out that “many great things are happening in Nigeria particularly the online banking system which has made it easy for people to send and receive money via the USSD platform with their smart phones. The USSD means Unstructured Supplementary Service Data. He also noted the ease with which deposit notifications are made in Nigeria even faster than what obtains in United States of America because of technology.
With the enormous contributions made so far by telecommunications sector to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the current and recent years, Onyeagwu emphasised that the sector must be given every attention it deserves as many things depend on telecommunications and its generational revolutions which began a few years ago with 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G and the latest 5G which many countries including Nigeria are eager to embrace as it would afford more effective transaction made possible by speedier broadband penetration.
The Zenith Bank Chieftain would however want the Nigerian government and its regulatory agencies to be more mindful of the challenges associated with financial inclusion in the telecommunications ecosystem.
Apart from the existing high level of illiteracy and immaturity among the telecoms facility users, Onyeagwu listed other challenges to include cybercrime, recycling of SIM card, abuse of privacy, existence of fake websites and many other challenges.
He has therefore challenged the Nigerian Communications Commissions (NCC) to work more assidously in checkmating the criminality in the system particularly the emergence of fake websites, invasion of people’s contact by some new generation loan lending online banks who go about scandalising their debtors through the social media platforms. “Such banks need to respect people’s privacy” he said.
He advised NCC to ensure that the issue of fake websites are taken seriously by pulling them down once noticed as such sites are channels of defrauding unsuspecting members of the public.
Speaking on the topic “Telecommunications in Nigeria: The Revolutions” Ernest Ndukwe who briefly gave a historical emergence of NCC with a staff strength of about 60 in one office in Lagos in 2000 said much gratitude should always go to former President Olusegun Obasanjo who saw the vision of revolutionizing the telecoms sector and pursued the vision.
This, according Ndukwe, the former president did by emplacing the needed structure for effective take off and giving attention to the early needs of the Commission. “Obasanjo administration no doubt provided the needed vibes for a good take off as, we employed highly qualified professional staff, increased salaries and trained staff locally and overseas.
The former boss of NCC took time to explain the various revolutions adopted by his administration in attempt to position NCC to meet the challenges of a 21st century global player in the emerging new information and communication order.
According to him, these revolutions included institutional, regulatory, consumer protection, telecoms service revolutions and tariff regulations which demystified the initial fear that telecoms services were not for low income users. “Tariffs have remained low in spite of inflation,” he remarked.
Engr. Ndukwe also pointed out the socio-economic impact of the telecoms revolution in Nigeria which had given humongous level of income to the Federal Government and the multiplier effect brought about by the revolution. He cited the financial sector as one of the major beneficiaries from the telecoms revolution.
While regretting much interference of Government in NITEL and poor performance of its management which has prevented it from becoming a big company it ought to be, Ndukwe posited that NCC’s future prospect would lie in continuous placement of emphasis on Broadband and the use of internet.
The Special Summit which was put together by Compact Communications Limited attracted personalities from NITDA, NCC, telecoms service providers like MTN, Airtel, Etisalat, Smile, Spectranet other stakeholders in the private private sector.
The incumbent Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta was represented by his Head of Public Affairs, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde who spoke on the topic “Telecommunications in Nigeria: The Next Frontiers.”
High point of the event was the presentation of awards to some personalities considered to have played very major role in making the telecoms revolution in Nigeria to take place. Leading the pack of the awardees was former President Olusegun Obasanjo,(in absentia) Ernest Ndukwe and others.