• Government should develop indigenous technicians
The Computer Village is the largest Information and communication Technology (ICT) accessories market in Africa situated in a community called Otigba, located in Ikeja, the capital of Lagos state, Southwestern Nigeria. Aside from sales of information and technology accessory, the market also deals in the repair of mobile phones and computer be it software or hardware component.
Mr. Kehinde Ige Apara, National President of the Association of Mobile Communication Device Technicians of Nigeria (AMCODET) in an exclusive interview with Gatmash Television in its office in Ikeja Computer Village, Lagos, Nigeria said telecommunication is money making venture; supersede Crude oil,Ikeja Computer Village market generate over N90 billion naira annually, why government should develop indigenous mobile phone technicians, its challenges and more…
Gatmash Television: What can we do with the mobile phones?
Mr. Ige Apara: Mobile phone is a device that keeps records of our dally activities, we also store our pictures, serve as our photo albums, keep a lot of documents, it’s our identity. When someone calls you and the name pop up, you automatically identify the person calling you. It’s beyond just phone call, it an identity, a way of identifying somebody or to track or monitor. We can use our mobile phones to monitor activities either we are there or not. It’s a way of getting a feedback or report. Serve as your office, you might not necessarily owe a shop/store but with the mobile phone you can operate a mobile shop and people will get in touch to market/sell your business, products with the help of the social media platform. The mobile phones offer us a tremendous advantages and opportunities.
What are the roles of AMCODET?
It’s a registered umbrella body that protects it members and the trade. Since the advent of mobile phones in 2001, the agency has employed millions of youths; keep them from crimes by getting them busy. That’s how we come together to have an umbrella body that will regulate/coordinate activities in the industry. In terms of training and government intervention, the body also partners with relevant government agencies like National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy etc. We protect our members, train them and educate the public on the dangers of buying all kinds of phones most especially, stolen phones.
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AMCODET and Police partnership to stop mobile phone theft?
In our meetings, we enlighten the two categories –software and hardware. The software is the one that unlock and flash mobile phone. Last year, the rate at which the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) was arresting our members was so alarming and we call for a general meeting with the Police and to table our challenges to them. The police attended some of our meeting too. We let them realize that we are not criminals but phone technician and there is no way we as technicians or an individual will ask customer where they got their phone from. Someone walk into my office to unlock a phone, I don’t know where he or she gets the phone from. My own is to render my legitimate business and get my money but in the long run the police will come and pick us up that we are the ones aiding the stealing of mobile phones because we unlock it; that why criminals have the mind of stealing peoples’ mobile phones. Before network service providers replaced your lost SIM card to you, they will take down some necessary information and come up with evidence to prove you owe the SIM Card with police report or sworn court affidavit. The police were able to educate us so we don’t fall into the hands of those phones theft.
With the enlightenment from the police, we introduce a solution to mobile phone theft called Mobile Phone Unlocking Clearance Permit’ and Unlocking Acceptance forms for our members due to incessant arrest of members by the Nigerian Police and SARS for allegedly unlocking stolen phones. The form will have to be filled by the customer at the point of unlocking any phone by an engineer who is our member and presented to the police in case of any issues. In several meetings with the Intelligence Response Team, office of the IGP concerning the arrest of our members; this approach has been helpful. Before you unlock any phone as a technician, you must undergo competence test. When you pass, you will get the permit to protect one in case of any issue of mobile phone theft. We now collect details of individual before unlocking phones now unlike before. We don’t unlock phones anyhow, we ask the customer some technical questions and if we are satisfied, we do our job if not we let them go to avoid issues. But we can’t arrest customer and call the police, the customer has his rights as well. We do alert our members via our group chat in case someone is trying to unlock stolen phones.
Do phone technicians undergo training before joining the trade?
Yes. To be a registered member of AMCODET, you must have at least five years’ experience as a technician. Before you get the form, we must know who trained you; if he’s a registered member or not for him to stand for you. We organize in-house training to update and refresh our memory where we invite other partners. We are still having challenges because the likes of the Samsung, Techno etc have not been supportive. They are afraid of transferring the indepth technological know-how to Nigerians. Within ourselves we are doing our best within the association.
Expectations from the Government?
We are members of National Council on Communication Technology (NCCT), the council is the highest decision making Organisation when it comes to telecommunication. We are going to submit a memo about our intension to establish a mobile technology institute or center to be run by government in collaboration with other relevant stake holders to train indigenous technicians. Its part of the recommendations we got from last council meeting in Gombe state. The mobile manufacturers/technician companies the likes of Techno, Samsung, Windows/Microsoft are skeptical of transferring the technological knowledge to Nigerians, they want to keep shipping in their products into the country to sell knowing fully well that if we get the knowledge we can manufacture/develop these devices here in Nigeria and they won’t be able to import into the country anymore. The government is not looking at that area that with the necessary materials, we can develop these devices, it should go beyond private partnership, the government should be fully involve. It entails a lot of things, communication involves security. In the aspect of security I made mention of stolen phones, it shouldn’t be the technician that’s to be arrested for a stolen phone, the government shouldn’t focus on taxes or tariff from the manufacturers/importers, they should think of how to develop indigenous technicians in capacity building. When we are fully developed in Nigeria, we can develop these devices, we can do it here in Nigeria, it’s possible. But we lack the government supports and intervention so that some of our members can train outside the country like Japan, India, and Pakistan. We are planning to send some of our members to Pakistan this year to learn more. We are doing this on our individual capacity without government support. The government wants us to develop ourselves before they can intervene. With God on our side, it’s achievable. These mobile communications have turn down our proposal because they know that Nigerians are very fast in learning, so they don’t want us to know the secret. Its just 19 years of telecommunication in Nigeria, we will get there in the next few years. We will start making made in Nigeria mobile phones, it’s achievable.
Opportunities in the ICT Sector?
A lot, for instance we buy a single phone screen for one hundred thousand naira, some eighty thousand naira or even fifty thousand naira, forty thousand naira, thirty-five thousand naira depending on the brands of the phone. Where we have challenges is the area of substandard products. The government is yet to beam its search light in the industry and government is losing a lot of revenue in the ICT industry. The substandard product shipped into the country is one of our major challenges. The Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has not been helpful either. I want to use this medium to call on them to beam their search light on the mobile phones spare parts, the screen, touch, and all accessories related to the mobile phone. They should know the standard they are bringing in from other country so Nigeria will not be a dumping ground for all the electronic mix.
The opportunities in the ICT sector are numerous, someone can start mobile phone spare parts with just one million naira but before seven months, that one million naira can become ten million naira. It’s a big investment. Training is another one. Day in day out, we are getting different type of sophisticated mobile phones and they are very expensive too. Some phone are sold for one million naira, seven hundred and fifty thousand naira and less; imagine how many piece that will be shipped into the country and the government is doing nothing about it. Capacity building is another way of making money. If government can help the experienced mobile phone engineers in the industry to attain the next level that will build their confidence by training then on how to manufacture mobile phones, it will create a bigger employment opportunity for Nigerians.
Next year, we want to roll out a programme on 20 years of Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) in Nigeria: The journey so far and its challenges. It’s high time for us to develop locally manufacture mobile phones. Even if its companies that manufacture the mobile phone touch pad, it will be making billions of naira not to talk of other accessories. Opportunities abound in this industry but yet to be tapped into, that’s why we are calling on the relevant government agencies, state and federal government to come into our aid, take it to the next level and be a viable business. So many people are looking for white collar job, I want to work in banks, oil and gas sector, etc, the telecommunication is money making venture that supersede the money gotten from crude oil. In Ikeja computer village alone, the market generates more than 90 billion naira annually according to the bureau of statistics but it’s much more than that. But they have not found out how the industry is surviving.
Substandard products in the like of mobile phone screens been imported from China into this country are a major challenge. If you buy a screen of twenty thousand naira now to fix a phone for the customer, after 24/48 hours , the same screen is damaged and the customer have no other choice but to come to you, the technician that fixed it and you have to sort out another money to fix it in most cases. This issue of substandard product is worrisome. When we had a meeting with the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), we are been told that they don’t have the equipment to taste if the products are fake or not, then we know it’s a serious issues and its affecting us.
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