Federal Government (FG) will soon deploy the fifth-generation network (5G) in Nigeria for increased connectivity, says Dr. Isa Pantami, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, while featuring on FORUM, a News Agency of Nigeria special interview programme in Abuja.
Communication and Digital Economy Minister added that the Information Communication and Technology sector will increase contribution to Nigeria’s gross domestic products.
According to Pantami, the decision to deploy the 5G network followed an outcome of thorough investigations, research and trial absolving it of posing a security or health threat.
He said the work on the national policy on 5G stands at 95 per cent done and will be presented to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in due course.
Pantami, who said that the primary concern of the government was to ensure the security and welfare of Nigerians in their utilisation of services in the telecommunications sector, blamed the delay in the deployment of the 5G network on conspiracy theories.
“Our government is a listening one; so we listen to constructive criticisms, respect it and appreciate it and at least we value it. We’d reached an advanced stage of 5G, then, an issue came up that 5G was related to COVID-19; many people including the educated ones started circulating it without verification.
“Naturally, people are a bit scared and skeptical about technology. So we gave enough time to do more consultation, creating awareness in local languages so as to engage our citizens to address all the challenges.
“We set up a technical team that accommodated security, health and environmental institutions and the public sector so that we can be on the same page. I want to give you the assurance that the 5G communication network is in the pipeline.”
Pantami said that the ministry had started discussions with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) concerning spectrum for commercial purposes.
“From that spectrum, NCC will give it to mobile operators to start deployment; so, the policy is almost ready. I went to the National Assembly, I defended our presentation and they have accepted and they have also endorsed the deployment of 5G.
“They have also encouraged us to learn from other countries that have deployed 5G and we have already done that. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a statement that there is no relationship between 5G network and COVID-19 and that addresses the health issue.
“Similarly, the International Communications Union (ICU), which is an arm of the UN, also issued another statement debunking any implications from the 5G,” Pantami said.
He emphasized the importance of ICT to the growth of the country’s economy, noted that ICT remained the fastest growing industry and that it was critical to driving infrastructure development.
ICT sector had contributed 14.7 per cent to Nigeria’s GDP in 2020. According to the minister, the country should expect more contributions, given the potential of the industry.
“Look at the statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics in the first quarter of 2021 and we are yet to see the second quarter; they said that the fastest-growing sector was the ICT sector.
“Throughout 2020, ICT was the fastest-growing sector. Mr President said that the ICT sector played the principal role of lifting Nigeria out of recession. If you look at the remittance of the sector to the Federal Government account, it is unprecedented.
“Without the ICT sector, sometimes the government will struggle to pay salary. As it is, within the two years I spent in the office, the remittance of the ICT sector to the Federal Government account is over N1trillion; this is unprecedented.
“Through spectrum sale from National Frequency Management Council assigned to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), within two years, we remitted over N358 billion.
“The earnings of small mobile operators that we remitted to the Federal Government, through Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), is over N601billion.
“Through capacity building and other government expenditure within the sector, the sector generated over N90billion.” He said the three examples alone amounted to over N1 trillion.
“So, look at even the budget of the government, how much is being generated? This is what we have done and if you look at our budget, sometimes, it is not up to N5billion because we generate and give to others to spend. Sometimes, we don’t even have N5 billion including our personnel throughout the year.
“We only generate and give it to the government for infrastructure-rail, transport, social intervention, works and housing, power and health. We generate and remit; we increased the generation by over 500 per cent by the time I took over,” Pantami said.