Aminu Maida’s quiet efficiency steering NCC to greater heights

Dr Aminu Wada Maida

By Bashir Ibrahim Hassan

Wada Maida (1950-2020) was one of the pillars of the media industry in Nigeria, having bestrode the public sector as information officer at Kaduna State Ministry of Information; the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), where he was editor-in-chief and chair Board of Directors. He was also a key player in the newspaper sphere (as one of the founders of the Trust group and chair of the Board of Directors of Peoples Media Limited). A former president of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, he was a member of the executive board of the International Press Institute (IPI).

However, this is not about the man who was chief press Secretary to Muhammadu Buhari as Nigeria’s military head of state in the early 1980s. It’s about his son, Aminu Maida, Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), a position to which he was appointed on October 11, 2023, by President Bola Tinubu.

More specifically, it is about how, like his father, he is using self-effacement and quiet efficiency to confront intricate national challenges; except that, unlike his father, Aminu has academic background in Electrical & Electronic Engineering, with a PhD from Bath University, UK, a Masters in Engineering in Information Systems Engineering from Imperial College London, as well as a Post Graduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship from Cambridge Judge Business School.

In a recent interaction with the top echelon of the Nigerian media at the Marriott Hotel, Lagos, Aminu impressed the audience with his confidence and mastery of the issues that he wants to address in his position, vis-à-vis the challenges in the communications sector of the nation’s economy. He is addressing “simple things like the SIM registration process, how we link our NIN to SIMs, especially with the younger generation who do not have the level of patience that we have,” because he concedes that “this kind of thing is very important for them; they just want to get things done.” More than these, however, he is also looking at the big picture. “I think there is a lot that we can do better. So, using the right regulatory framework, we can change things.”

He has already identified some areas, in consonance with the Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, in the sector.

On his part, since his assumption of office, it’s been “observation, fact-finding, engaging key stakeholders in a very silent way and also trying to feel the pulse of the people in terms of what they want and, of course, in terms of policy direction. My Honourable Minister has done the work for us. He released a strategic blueprint almost immediately upon assumption of duties. So, for me, what I have to do is very clear, what I have to achieve is very clear and I have a clear direction.” At the forum, he made very clear distinctions between the roles of the three groups of stakeholders within our industry — the government that sets the policy direction, the industry, and the consumers.

He says the government, through the minister, has set the target regarding where he wants us to go in terms of growth and what the communications sector should contribute to the GDP. He noted: “If we do it right, it will create more jobs and more revenue for the government and we will enable other agencies as well.” He cautions against the tendency to see NCC as a revenue-yielding agency on account of the off-cycle auctions of spectrum, which the industry needs to grow. He says when those off-cycle events happen in one year, the expectation is that such revenues should accrue every year.

Reflecting the consumer-centric commitment of NCC under his watch, he takes time to elaborate on what’s on offer to them. “I will summarize it in this way: we are looking to improve the total quality of their experience, and when we say quality of experience, it’s not necessarily just looking at faster speed coverage, but also the total quality of experience.” 

He is committed to evolving a system to measure quality of service. “I bet you almost everybody is using a dual or a multiple sim phone, not because we want but because of the need to stay connected. This is our way of staying connected, if this one is not working, the other one will work. So, we need to find a way to make it easier for consumers to decide which networks or service providers they should use.”

How will NCC achieve a data-centric approach? He says: “Today the commission collects a lot of data, but how do we use that data, how do we present that data? We present data sometimes at the national level, but truly, some of the problems are local, and I doubt if this data is available at the local government or zonal levels. So, we are looking at moving to a place whereby we can start looking at data, maybe at local government levels, so that when we are looking at issues, we can localize them instead of focusing on performance of the industry at the national level.”

This, he says, will enable NCC to “start holding our licensees accountable.”

NCC is also playing a mediating role between competing service providers, example being the issue of disconnection between MTN and GLO dating back to 2009, which Aminu describes as a “commercial dispute”, but one that “it’s not something we can shy away from. It’s in the news and both sides have used the media to influence (the public to make judgment) in their favor but at the end of the day, there’s an agreement.” He insists that each party is obliged to respect the terms of agreement that has been reached. Where a party reneges of this agreement, he says, this will trigger the need for NCC to enforce discipline.

He’s also mindful of the interest of the consumers – if they can afford more than one SIM now, can they in the future when, putting into consideration, the likelihood of increase of cost of obtaining and maintaining them as could be dictated by various factors?

He says NCC is determined to play the effective regulator role. But he says he’ll not “promise that I’m going to solve all the problems and fly a rocket to Jupiter. But I can guarantee you we will work towards the sector becoming better (in performance) and I think in the next one year, going back to the emphasis I made on the consumer. We are working towards improving our total customer experience through data collection, transparency, and driving compliance.

So, we will at some stage release specific absolute targets to our licensees and we’ll be holding them accountable.”

He identifies provision of digital public infrastructure as a priority of government, to get to a situation where consumers can carry their documents in a secured way online with them anywhere, everywhere they go, such as, NIMC, the foundational identity, which may be linked to BVN, SIM registration, passport, academic certificates and pension documents.

On the security dimension of NCC’s regulatory functions, he posits that one of the problems today is that a fraudster can use a phone number to perpetrate fraud in one institution and go to another institution within the same industry and perpetrate another fraud with the same number, with zero consequences. But he says if a phone number used for this purpose is blacklisted, the serial fraud would be impossible.

Back to the young man’s pedigree, the difference between father and son in fields of academic pursuits notwithstanding, everything about Dr. Maida evokes the image of a chip off an old block.

Prior to his appointment as the Executive Vice Chairman/ CEO of the NCC, Dr. Maida was the Executive Director, Technology and Operations at the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems PLC (NIBSS) where he oversaw the day-to-day activities of the entire operations and IT infrastructure of NIBSS. Prior to this role he was the Chief Technology Officer at ARCA Payments Network, a Nigerian based FinTech, and before then he worked with the British Telecoms as a Lead Consultant as well as with Cisco Systems, UK.

Dr. Maida’s technical prowess is further evidenced by the numerous patents he holds to his name in the areas of wireless communication and self-organizing networks. Here’s, therefore, another round peg in a round hole.

The consensus of impressions from his interaction with the media was that he has a genuine commitment to a transparent and accountable leadership at the NCC. This is remarkable at a time when everyone agrees that transparency and accountability are the most essential ingredients of leadership.

With Maida’s clear direction, bold initiative, commitment to transparent and accountable leadership, and the required supervisory and guardianship of his Minister, Bosun Tijani, an unprecedented success in the areas of efficiency, cost-effectiveness, data management, reliability, and greater contribution of the sector to the country’s economic development, amongst others, is just around the corner.

Hassan writes from Abuja 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily