When MTN Nigeria was to shop for a new board Chairman in 2019, upon the retirement of Pascal Dozie, the telecommunications giant went for the former head of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigeria’s telecoms regulatory body, Ernest Ndukwe.
Some saw this as a reinforcement of their pro-Nigeria campaign, while few viewed it as a strategy to reduce their brushes with the Nigerian telecoms regulatory body. However, what no one could question, was Ndukwe’s qualification to lead the board. With decades in the telecommunications space, plus a good knowledge of the regulatory terrain in the country, there could hardly have been a better man for the job.
Ernest Ndukwe was born on September 2, 1948, in Nigeria. After his primary and secondary education, he proceeded to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile Ife and bagged a Bachelor of Science (B.sc) degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering in 1975. He went further to get a certificate in satellite communication from the Harris Corporation Training School, Melbourne, Florida in 1977. After some years of working, he would later join the Chief Executive Programme (CEP) at Lagos Business School in 1994.
Climbing the career ladder
Ndukwe’s career started in 1976 when he joined Radio Communications Nigeria (RCN) Limited as a young graduate. He left for an in-service training in Florida and returned in August 1977 to continue with his work. Within the next two years, he rose to become Maintenance Supervisor in 1978 and Assistant Engineering Manager in 1979.
In 1980, he made a full shift into telecommunications and joined GEC Telecommunications as Engineering Manager. He spent the next decade with the company, rising rapidly through the ranks to become the Commercial Director in 1988 and Managing Director of the company in 1989. He was also appointed President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) at about this time.
Prior to his appointment to the NCC, Dr Ndukwe was the MD/CEO of General Telecom Plc and had held several senior and top-level executive positions in leading multinational telecommunications companies. He is also a Vice-Chairman of the ITU Telecom Development Advisory Group (TDAG) representing Nigeria.
Years of service
In the year 2000, then Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, appointed him as the Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). As head of this regulatory body for two 5-year tenures, he oversaw the era many now recall as Nigeria’s Telecommunication Revolution. The industry witnessed tremendous growth during the decade, moving from a near-monopoly to a free market with multiple players.
He served as Co-chairman of the Presidential Committee, set up to develop a strategy and roadmap for universal Broadband Access for Nigeria. Ndukwe also served as the Vice-Chairman of the National Broadband Council, Chairman of Openmedia Group, as well as a part-time Faculty at the Lagos Business School where he heads the Centre for Infrastructure Policy, Regulation and Advancement, CIPRA.
He has served as Chairman of the Administrative Council of the African Telecommunications Union, Chairman of the West African Telecom Regulators Assembly (WATRA), and Vice Chairman of the Telecom Development Advisory Group of the International Telecommunications Union representing Nigeria, among others.
Ernest Ndukwe is a fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (FNSE), the Nigerian Institute of Management (FNIM), as well as the Nigerian Academy of Engineering, (FAEng). He has authored several papers on Utility Regulation/Sector Policy and business management. He is also a regular resource person at local and international conferences and events.
Other positions he has served include appointment to the board of Access Bank as an Independent Non-Executive Director in 2013, as well as SystemSpecs Ltd, serving as Chairman.
He is currently the board Chairman, MTN Nigeria.
Recognition and Awards
Ernest Ndukwe was decorated in 2014 at the World Telecom Development Conference (WTDC) with the ITU Gold Medal Award “in recognition of his important contribution to global Information and Communications Technologies.”
He also got the Distinguished Excellence Award by Nigeria IT Professionals in the Americas for outstanding contribution towards the improvement of the Communications Industry in Nigeria.
He received the Nigerian Achievers Award 2003 for outstanding contribution to the Communications industry; Man of the Year Award 2002 and 2006 by Nigerian Information Technology and Telecom Awards (NIITA) for exemplary courage in presiding over the organisation of the most transparent spectrum auction exercise in Africa.
He is a recipient of five honorary doctorate degrees from various universities and also received Excellence awards from his alma mater, Obafemi Awolowo University, and Lagos Business School Alumni Association Award for outstanding contributions to the Telecommunications Industry.
He was awarded the distinguished honour of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic. His outstanding contribution to public office earned him the Africa Business Awards 2009 organised by African Business Magazine and the Commonwealth Business Council. Dr. Ndukwe is a recipient of the Zik’s prize for leadership Award.