Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has said that the defunct Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) ‘wasted’ $7 billion of tax payers’ money on nothing tangible and that he was happy the organisation ‘died’.
El-Rufai noted that at some point, the former national telecommunications firm became a “dinosaur that failed to innovate when it mattered most, and gradually, it died.”
He said this at the 20th anniversary of the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), held over the weekend.
According to him, “I am happy that NITEL died. It deserved to die. It was retarding the progress of the nation. The telecoms revolution caught them unawares,” he added.
He noted that despite the huge investments made by the federal government, the extinct NITEL management was only able to provide just 450,000 telephone lines for the millions of Nigerians, “the service, which was very epileptic and most expensive network in the world.”
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He decried how NITEL ‘muzzled’ private telecommunications operators (PTOs) by “fixing outrageous interconnect fees with the intention of remaining the only operator in the market.”
According to him, the non-operational company controlled almost 98 per cent of the market, leaving the remaining two per cent for PTOs to compete, ‘’even at that, NITEL was not ready to leave the 10 per cent for the PTOs. On so many occasions, NITEL disconnected these PTOs, and that became a huge problem for some of them, which relied on Interconnect fees to sustain in the market.’ ’
El-Rufai recalled that though the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) was already operational then, NITEL never allowed the commission to regulate things.
The governor lauded the erstwhile Minister of Communications, Major-General Tajudeen Olanrewaju (rtd) during the era of late maximum dictator, General Sanni Abacha, stating that he was the first minister that saw the need for private telecoms firms to be licensed.