Protect critical national infrastructure, Buhari directs govt agencies

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday in Abuja, directed the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy to work with all relevant government agencies to ensure full protection of critical national infrastructure.

The President issued the directive at the unveiling of the National Broadband Plan 2020–2025, commissioning of the Communications and Digital Economy complex, flag-off of the Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Training and launching of the Abuja Emergency Communication Centre and the National Emergency Toll-Free Number 112.

The President also urged mobile network operators to ensure full attainment of the targets set in the National Broadband Plan by giving special attention to un-served and underserved areas while deploying their services.

President Buhari expressed concern about the challenges faced by operators in the country, particularly vandalism of telecommunications equipment.

He assured the operators of government’s commitment to ensuring that all stakeholders have a conducive environment to ensure the successful implementation of the Broadband Plan, which seeks to boost broadband penetration as well as support the deployment of 4G across the country.

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On the newly commissioned Emergency Communications Centre and Toll-Free Number 112, the President explained that it further demonstrates his administration’s resolve to keep Nigerians safe.

”We have taken advantage of digital technologies to ensure that Nigerians in distress are only a dial away from the relevant emergency response institutions in the country.

”This will go a long way in supporting our efforts to improve the security of lives and property,’’ he said.

On the Digital Nigeria Programme, President Buhari explained that it is one of Federal Government’s key initiatives to empower innovators and entrepreneurs with skills required to thrive in the emerging digital economy.

” It is part of our efforts to ensure that our youths, women, unemployed graduates and people living with disabilities either become employers of labour or get a large number of well-paying jobs thereby contributing to the national drive of lifting Nigerians out of poverty,’’ he said.

Similarly, President Buhari declared that the newly commissioned Communications and Digital Economy Complex will provide a befitting coordinating centre for the new focus on the Nigerian Digital Economy.

”It signals the desire to intensify efforts towards ensuring that Nigeria becomes an active participant in the Global Digital Economy,’’ he said.

Earlier, the President acknowledged that the dwindling price of crude oil had adversely affected budgetary projections and increased the sense of urgency to diversify the economy.

He, however, expressed delight that the projects commissioned would enhance the development of the National Digital Economy and support efforts at diversifying the economy.

According to President Buhari, ”the Digital Economy will also support us in fighting corruption through digitalization and enabling government digital services.

”Digital technologies have become a useful platform for economic diversification. Having recognised the benefits of these technologies we have decided to adopt the Digital Economy paradigm early,” he said.

The President also commended the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the Presidential Committee and all stakeholders who participated in the development of the National Broadband Plan, lauding the leadership of the Ministry for the high level of synergy amongst the parastatals under its supervision.

On his part, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, said the project of digitisation was imminent at the instance of coronavirus outbreak in Nigeria.

Pantami said that the projects were in line with the revised mandate of the ministry as a result of its redesignation, adding that it also aligns with the priorities of the Federal Government.

He said that the implementation of the broadband would support the diversification efforts of the government.

He further explained that digital economy was heavily reliant on the availability of cost-effective broadband, among others.

“This plan aims at providing broadband for 90 per cent of Nigerians over the next five years at download rates of 25Mbps in urban areas and 10 Mbps in rural areas.

“The plan aims for a maximum price of N390 per gigabyte of data.

“The unfortunate realities of the COVID-19 has made it imperative to build and depend on a sector of the economy that is more resilient to global economic shocks than the oil sector,” he said.

Also speaking, the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta announced that the country’s broadband penetration had increased to 38.5 per cent.

”As at the time this government came into power in 2015, broadband penetration was hovering between 4 and 6 per cent. Broadband penetration has now reached 38.5 per cent,” he said.

Danbatta explained that the Digital Complex building accommodates the office of the Minister, permanent secretary of the Ministry and four departments of the Commission.

He added that the 5-storey building with two basement floors sit on 8 hectares of land at the Mbora district, Abuja and is equipped with modern telecommunications facility, a crèche for nursing mothers, gymnasium, among others.

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