Nigeria's Internet Woes Persist Despite Government Efforts

Nigeria's digital infrastructure struggles with slow internet, frequent fiber cuts, and industry challenges, hindering economic growth and digital divide. The government must address these issues to support the country's digital economy.

Nasiru Eneji Abdulrasheed
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Nigeria's Internet Woes Persist Despite Government Efforts

Nigeria's Internet Woes Persist Despite Government Efforts

Nigerian internet users are still struggling with slow speeds and poor connectivity, even as the government attempts to improve the country's digital infrastructure. The telecommunications industry has been hit hard by frequent fiber optic cable cuts, which caused a loss of at least $23 million in 2023 alone, leading to internet outages and deteriorating service quality.

The House of Representatives recently raised concerns about the declining telecom quality, with Nigerians losing valuable business hours and finances due to poor service delivery. The telecom industry has spent over $60 million to repair around 59,000 fiber cuts between 2022 and 2023, with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) estimating over 50,000 cases of significant damage to telecoms infrastructure in the past five years.

To address these issues, the government is preparing to criminalize the destruction of broadband fiber cables, while the telecom industry is urging the government to declare telecoms infrastructure as a critical national asset to curb the growth of these cuts. However, the challenges faced by the industry go beyond infrastructure damage.

Mobile network operators (MNOs) in Nigeria are burdened with nearly 46 different taxes and intermittent demands from state governments for funds to boost internally generated revenue (IGR). Operators are considering raising tariffs to sustain their businesses and provide quality services amidst economic hardships, as consumer prices in other sectors have risen sharply over the past six years, while telco prices have remained stagnant or even declined.

Challenges such as sourcing foreign exchange, attracting investments, and maintaining the status quo have contributed to tough operating conditions, jeopardizing the sustainability of quality service provision. Industry players emphasize the urgent need for the Federal Government to prioritize investment in telecoms infrastructure to support the digital economy's growth in the country.

Why this matters: The persistent internet connectivity issues in Nigeria have far-reaching consequences for the country's economy and its citizens' daily lives. As businesses increasingly rely on digital platforms, the lack of reliable internet access hinders growth and productivity. Moreover, the digital divide between urban and rural areas is likely to widen if the government fails to address the infrastructure challenges promptly.

Despite the government's ambitious National Broadband Plan (NBP 2020-2025), which aims to achieve 70% broadband penetration and 90% population coverage by 2025, Nigeria has seen a consistent decline in broadband connections. Experts believe that achieving the NBP targets requires collaboration among industry stakeholders and addressing challenges faced by MNOs in building infrastructure, such as security concerns, theft, and right-of-way issues.

As Ikemesit Effiong, chairman of the Technology Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Business Law, stated, "The telecommunications sector plays a critical role in the country's economy and society." The government's efforts to create a conducive economic environment and address the various obstacles faced by the industry will be critical in ensuring the sustainability and growth of the telecommunications sector in Nigeria.

Key Takeaways

  • Nigeria's telecom industry faces $23M losses from fiber cuts in 2023.
  • Govt plans to criminalize fiber cable destruction, declare telecom as critical asset.
  • MNOs burdened by 46 taxes, seek tariff hikes to sustain operations.
  • Nigeria's broadband connections decline despite 70% penetration target by 2025.
  • The Telecom sector's challenges hinder digital economy growth and widen the urban-rural divide.