Nigeria abandons National Rural Telephony Project

Nigeria’s federal government announced that they will abandon the National Rural Telephony Project (NRTP) started in 2011, which has set the government back $200-million already.

Nigeria’s Minister of Communications Technology Omobola Johnson (image: file)

The project was to cover 218 local government areas and provide over 636 256 Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) lines in the 774 local government areas, while the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was to bridge the digital divide between the urban and rural areas.

China’s ZTE Corporation, Huawei and Shangai Bell were contracted to build the rural infrastructure, but only managed to install local exchanges.

Nigeria believes that the infrastructure in the six geopolitical zones will be better managed by external parties. “The telecom industry is fully liberalised, there is very little government involvement and, therefore, we believe that the National Rural Telephony Project is better implemented and managed outside of government,” said Nigeria’s Minister of communications Omobola Johnson.

“So these six rural telephony exchanges are being concessioned to companies that have paid for them and our role is to monitor the implementation and delivery of services to rural areas. In a sense, we are getting out of the rural telephony,” she added.

Lanre Ajayi, president of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), said that things would have been planned differently if the project was started today. “If the project was done today, it would have been done differently. At the time it was started, nobody knew that GSM operators would cover ground so quickly. Today, GSM service has covered 80 per cent of the populace.”

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor