By Emmanuel Elebeke
Nigeria is to host this year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the West African Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) in Abuja.
The event provides opportunity for telecoms regulators in West Africa to take important decisions, including the adoption of activities report, programmes, budget for the Executive Secretariat, as well as the renewal of the organisation’s governing bodies.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami and the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, are to speak at the AGM.
While Pantami will deliver the opening address at the AGM scheduled to take place from March 10-11, 2021 in Abuja, Danbatta will give the keynote at the conference.
Speaking at a pre-conference meeting, the EVC NCC, Prof. Danbatta expressed optimism that this year’s annual general meeting will live up to expectations as Nigeria looks forward to clinching the top job at the regional body.
He said Nigeria is fielding Mr. Aliyu Yusuf Aboki, as a candidate for the position of Executive Officer in WATRA.
‘‘In the last 17 years, Aboki has worked in the Information Communication sector and he has the lofty agenda to work with Member State regulators and other stakeholders to make WATRA play a more strategic role in shaping the regulation of telecoms sector in the sub- region.’’
Established in November 2004 with headquarters in Abuja, WATRA has become an important regional organisation within the African and global telecommunications ecosystem, with current membership consisting of independent National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) across 16 countries including Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire. Others include Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
As a regional telecoms organisation, WATRA is a consultative and collaborative body of Telecommunications Regulators in the West African sub-region to aid and advance development of telecommunications in the sub-region and ultimately in Africa.
The Assembly also collaborates and cooperates with other regional and international organisations towards the attainment of its mission to ensure the rapid development of telecommunications in the sub-region.
The association also promotes the establishment of modern legal and regulatory structures for telecommunications and seeks the development of harmonization of regulations for telecommunications service delivery and pricing in all countries in the sub-region.
‘‘WATRA is poised to work towards the attainment of a uniform telecommunications service standard in the sub-region and the adoption of a uniform technical quality standard for telecommunication applications and equipment employed in the sub-region.
‘‘It also initiates, encourages and supports human resource and capacity building efforts aimed at redressing the shortage of indigenous skills, competencies and capabilities in emerging information and communications technologies in the sub-region,’’ Danbatta added.
WATRA comprises three institutions namely: The Conference of Regulator, The Executive Committee and The Secretariat.
The Secretariat is the Administrative organ of WATRA, while The Conference of Regulators is the supreme decision-making body and the main authority of WATRA.
The Conference of Regulators meets, at least, once a year in a General Assembly to define the general policy framework, set the objectives including approving the budget and receiving the report of the auditor.