"Passion is a gender neutralizing force ...”
Marissa Meyer, VP Google.

mrs_udumaThis is an apt description for Mrs Mary Nma Uduma, the former Director of Consumer Affairs. A woman of substance who has dedicated most of her life to the service of the Nigerian public.

In developing this piece, naturally some research had to be done, to understand the essence of this spectacular woman. Amazingly, there was a verdict of almost 100% from everyone spoken to; on the outstanding, hardworking and committed qualities of Mrs Uduma.

She spoke to the Online Crew of The Communicator and revealed her passions, motivations, dreams for NCC and of course, life after NCC. It was privilege picking the mind of such an achiever.


Comments on Mrs. Mary Uduma from her Colleagues

Intelligent, beautiful mind, very hard working and knowledgeable.

Mrs. Beluchi Nwanisobi, SM(Consumer Affairs)

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She joined us (Consumer Affairs) in January 2011. A very thorough and hardworking woman. A mother to everyone. The whole of CAB will say that She Came, She Saw and She Conquered. Management should give her kudos for taking the mandate of SIM Card Registration, Number Portability and Mobile Payment to the nooks and crannies of the country through the various outreach programmes. Also for the execution of several projects like the Consumer Portal which was launched during her tenure. To leave unscathed after 35 years of public service, in sound health and working like a 25 yr old, calls for thanksgiving. Please note this; Mrs. Mary Uduma is our mother in CAB.

Dr J. O. Atoyebi, AD (Consumer Affairs)

Epitome of peace and mother of all.

Mrs. Margaret Amaku, SO(Procurement)


Who is Mrs. Mary Uduma?

I was born 25th May 1952. I did my primary school in a small village called Okon in Ohafia. I finished that in 1966 before the war. During the war we couldn’t go to school so it was after the war that I went on to do my secondary education. Immediately after the war in 1970 we relocated to Abakiliki in now in Ebonyi state and there I started secondary school. Between 1970 and 1972 I graduated from secondary school. My result was in the second grade. It was tough for us to continue our education because we were just coming out from the war in the Eastern part of the country. When I tried to go to university immediately, it did not work out, I had to go and work. I worked for about three years before going to the Institute of Management Technology Enugu (IMT). In IMT, I wanted to read accounting.
   I got admission into the University of Jos, but I hadn’t money to go and my parents hadn’t the money to send me to the University of Jos. I had to take the one that government could pay for me. So I did what was called technical education. It was a combination of education with a professional course. I did technical education accounting and economics and I ended that in 1979. I went on to do my youth service in Ogun state. During my youth service, I registered with the University of Lagos to do my BSc. in Accounting which I finished in 1985. It was during my youth service that I met my husband and I got married. I wedded in 1982 and I continued my course with the University of Lagos. It was a part time course and I got a job with Federal Audit now Auditor General for the Federation. I was working as an executive officer in Federal Audit while doing my course in the University of Lagos studying accounting. In between this I was writing my professional exams and in May 1985, I qualified as a Chartered Accountant and I got the prize as the best female student. I qualified in June the same year with a Second Class Upper BSc. degree in Accounting. Since then I have been working in the field of accounting. I left Federal Audit and went to an investment bank called Ivory Merchant Bank. I left the bank to join NCC in March 1995 as an assistant Director in Finance. I was more or less the first head of Finance in NCC.

Could you tell us more about journey in NCC?

mrs_udumaComing into NCC my first port of call was Finance department because I was a chartered accountant and having worked in the Office of the Auditor General I needed to contribute to the development of the Finance Department. Some of the financial authorization that is still being used in the Commission I started, such as drawing a budget, budget controlling, approval limits, how cheques are done, those that would sign cheques of certain limits and those that would sign cheques of further limits, few things that we manually did then before automation came into finance and accounting. I worked in the Finance Department from 1995-1999 as an Assistant Director, when I was moved to Head the Tariff and Charges department. I worked as a Deputy Director in Tariff and Charges from 1999-2004. From there I went to Corporate planning and I worked there from 2005 to 2006.
   In 2006 there was a vacancy advert by the Commission for two Directors, a Director (Licensing) and Director (Engineering). The previous directors were promoted to EC’S; EC (Technical) and EC (Licensing). I applied like others. It was highly competitive. It was PWC that conducted the process for NCC and after so many interviews finally I got the job as Director (Licensing) in September 2006. I had already been in Tariff and Charges which was part of Licensing before I went to Corporate Planning which led me to managing the international affairs of the Commission. I was going for global meetings, contributing to WATRA, ITU, ATU, ICAN and all those global partnerships that the Commission has. I worked there from 2006- 2010 when there was internal restructuring and re-engineering of NCC and that led to my being asked to head Policy Competition and Research and that department was still responsible for Tariff and charges because my last responsibility included tariff and charges so I had other people that were doing it so I was overseeing licensing, tariff and charges and the zonal offices. They were all under me. When the restructuring was done licensing was scrapped completely. I was heading public policy competition and economic research. This time I was looking after industry policy, policy development within and outside the country and I was doing international affairs as well as looking after tariff including the library. In January 2011, I was asked to head Consumer Affairs. So I have gone through finance, cooperate planning, licensing, tariff and charges, policy competition and now I am leaving from Consumer Affairs. It has been exciting being in Consumer Affairs.

Which Department was the most exciting and challenging and why?

Licensing, because it was at the peak of our trying to license operators which is the major mandate of NCC and I was in the middle of it. Categories, procedures for licensing, researching for what other people do or approving tariffs. It was very exciting. I loved it so much. When licensing was scrapped I was like why should we scrap licensing because I enjoyed it. It afforded me the opportunity to know so many people, counsel people, some people will come and say madam we want this license and I would advise what would work for them.
   I am a passionate person when it comes to work, I put all I have in whatever work you ask me to do. When I was in Finance I was putting my best, I went to tariffs and charges I started the department from scratch just like finance and when I was moved to licensing it was an addition to what I was already doing in tariffs and charges only I was at the other end of looking after tariff and charges. It was really exciting been there, I really enjoyed my stay as director for licensing. When I become director policy competition and economic analysis, what happened was that some of the jobs I had done before were the jobs I was doing except one that joined it and that was the library. When I came to Consumer Affairs, I really enjoyed myself because I put in all I have whenever I have to do something. I don’t work as if I am working for government, I work as if I am working for myself so that I contribute my quota with all my heart and that’s why people say she is restless

Since you have been the helmswoman in Consumer Affairs what initiatives started under your direction?

There were some plans and projects they had that couldn’t take off. Like the child online protection, I had to dust it off to form a Technical Working group on child online protection so that we can come up with a policy frame work on how to protect Nigeria children online. The policy frame work has been submitted and it has been forwarded to the Minister of Communication. Secondly I came in when the outreaches were going down. When you get to our outreach programs you see few people and there were a lot of complaints that people were no more coming for the programs, so I met with our consultant on our outreaches, the TCP, COP, and CTM. I threatened them, I said if I don’t see the minimum crowd of a certain number you will not be paid and with this threat they went out to work to make sure that there was good attendance at the programme. Quality crowd, people that will ask pertinent questions that will bring out issues that NCC can work with. The other thing is the Consumer Industry Advisory forum, at the time I came, it was almost scrapped. It was instituted in 2009 and had held only one meeting and since then there was no meetings. When I came I said it must start and since I came we have had three meetings and one public forum and a consumer industry advisor forum. It is made up of all the stakeholders in the industry that are inspected when we talk about consumers so they give us advice and they have made three recommendations, some of them are the things that NCC is implementing now. We have a call centre were anybody in the world can reach NCC and make a complaint; the call centre program was not working. I worked with IT department to make sure that we even understand what we are doing. There was a programme that started that the operators should bring us the complaints they receive on a daily basis. As at the time I came in, it wasn’t working. So we had to start meeting with the operators to make sure the operators give us the number of complaints they received from the consumers because we want to see how they resolve these consumers’ complaints. SLA (service level agents) that if a complaint comes from a consumer the network operators have a limited time to resolve that complaint. It ranges from 10 minutes to 72 hours, we monitor to see whether the operators are meeting those complaints, when they dont we let them know. Our complaint handling mechanism changed dramatically, and it is working and our call center is doing what they are supposed to do.
   I came in to launch the web portal because the web portal is the face of the consumer department, where the consumer can make complaints and highlight what is going on in the Commission. The consumer web portal is now up and we are building the content, we have published new fact sheets on health and SIM registration. On the Consumer outreaches, we were able to do about 11 of it in 2011 as against 6 that was the initial target. The consumer parliament now stepped up. It’s been fun doing that but it means travelling a lot.

Could you give us a brief summary of the distinction between these outreaches?

In terms of principle, they are all similar, which is to inform, educate, empower and protect the consumer. TCP is the highest level talking to consumers in commercial cities in state capitals, and there are always vibrant, quality attendees. TCP is the top notch of the outreaches.
   In the consumer outreaches we reach those in cities that are not state or regional capitals. The outing here is not as elaborate as TCP.
   At town hall meetings we go to the rural areas to speak their language and let them hear, know, understand and be educated about their own rights just like we have done for those in the cities.

What are the changes you would like to see in the NCC?

mrs_udumaI would like to see the first culture we had in NCC. It was something that was given to us, the NCC culture. I need us to go back to that culture. That culture is that we have our values. I need to see it being implemented. Those values are we are FAIR, FIRM and FORTHRIGHT. I need to see that happen in NCC. I need to see NCC can really be a team where if one of us scores a goal all of us will rejoice. How many people play the field of soccer? There are eleven of them that are there playing and others are spectators. As a team if the striker scores it’s not only the strikers that rejoice, everybody on the team celebrates the goal. I need to see NCC celebrating one another, working as a team, being firm, fair and forthright in all that we do. Fair play is very very key. I need an NCC that is consistent in its policy implementation and not lower our policy at any time. When we are consistent in our policy, it makes it easier for those that are coming in, for those that are doing business. I have had people ask me questions is NCC actually an organization in the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Anybody that comes into NCC should be told about the NCC culture and the NCC values, make sure we maintain those values, it is very important. When your service takers see that you have a culture and you have values that you implement, they will always go back to say good things, even those that are corrupt would say if you are going to NCC don’t do it that way. They would not accept that. I want to see an NCC that is growing in leaps and bounds and that our regulation is best in Africa and we maintain the best practices in the world. I want to continue to see other regulators come to learn here what we do and take back our values to their organizations and implement maybe adapt or adopt some of the things we do in NCC. I also want to see an NCC that would be respected.

Your passions and motivations ...?

The truth is that whatever I want to do, I want to excel. I want to do well and I am a Christian, I am a child of God and that means I do everything I do as if I am doing it for God. I don’t do any of my work to impress anybody and when I set out my mind and lead to do a thing, I do it with all my mind, with all my spirit, with all my body. The first thing is that because Christ lives in me and I work as I am working on to Christ. I am not an eye service person. I like people that are working with me to work. I enjoy working, I don’t know why, even when I am walking on the road you see my steps are very fast. I don’t walk as if I am 60 years; I walk as if I am 25. I perform; I like to deliver my mandate. Those are the things that drive me. The word of God in me, the spirit of God in me and the desire to excel.

Do you have any opinion on the stance that NCC is not hard enough on operators?

mrs_udumaNCC is a referee and it has a balanced score card to maintain. What do I mean? On one hand NCC is trying to encourage investment into the ICT industry and on the other part NCC has to protect the investors’ interest. It is like the chicken and the egg. If there is no investment in ICT or telecoms where will the consumer have the opportunity to receive service? Who will give the consumer service? So on one hand we encourage the investors and operators to deliver service. The balancing there is that you shouldn’t do one at the detriment of the other. On the other hand the consumer is the passion of the commission. The consumer must be treated well, must be treated as king. The consumer pays the bill. This is an investment and if there is no consumer, how will the investors recover their investment? Assuming we all switch off our mobile phones for a day, you know the loss the operators will incur. So NCC is to balance it in such a way that none of the stake holders should suffer. NCC also balances in terms of stakeholders in government, policy makers and the rest of them so it should not just be that NCC is siding operators. There are laws and regulations, so we follow the law. We must balance the two; it is not true that we are supporting the operators.

Your final thoughts on the NCC?

I see a great NCC. Why do I say this, we have not structured the ICT industry at all. We are just grappling with voice, in the next few years, voice will be an added service. Data will take over and I will see an NCC that will pilot that. An NCC that will referee the service provision in terms of the new things that are coming: video, voice and data. I am dreaming of an NCC that will promote Internet presence, apart from the access. Promote Nigerians being proud to have “NG” as their domain name, an NCC that will make sure that we have broadband in our homes. Some jurisdictions have made broadband a fundamental human rights that they gives house loans to buy computers and make sure that there are cables for them to have broadband. I see NCC that will midwife and promote that, I see an NCC that will go places. We are not only going to be respected nationally but also internationally. I see an NCC that will give a new image to Nigeria, that’s my desire and my dream for NCC. We had a Minister that came with “good people, great nation” a new image of Nigeria. Where ever you are talking about NCC all over the world for now NCC is respected but that respect should go beyond that. We should do what we have set out to do. There will be broadband in this country, people will be able to communicate wherever they are in this country because our mandate is let everyone communicate. Even the disabled or the challenged people should be able to communicate, whether you are blind or hard of hearing. I see an NCC that will promote that. This is my dream for NCC and I want to see an NCC that is a world class organization. World class in everything we do that ICT will be in the forefront. We shouldn’t be pushing files all over. Our relationship with operator’s communication will be electronic. Let’s have e-communications, e- everything that is what I am looking forward to. By the time I come back I want to ask questions, I want to get information, now that the information bill has been passed, I can just go online and get any information from our website. I want a robust website. I want NCC not only to publish its website with English only, but a second language. So that those who cannot speak English can get on our website and get information about NCC.

What advice would you give your colleagues?

What will give me joy is that when I come back in a year or two and I speak with the new director, I will be told that I have a good team. That the team work we started must continue. That the passion we have to deliver service must continue. We should have that passion and make sure that we deliver service to our people. Make sure that complaints mechanism are improved on, make sure that when we investigate a case, we investigate it until we close it and the consumer is satisfied. We need to do that. Team work should be paramount and the culture must continue. Where I am leaving the work, I want them to go higher. There is still the consumer magazine that we have not published. We have formed the editorial team and I think that they will be relating with you people. I will be visiting the web portal to make sure that it is working and I will be calling the contact center to make sure that it is working and I will also be encouraging people to send in their complaints for our people to respond, investigate and resolve their problems. Also I want them to love one another.

After NCC, what next?

mrs_udumaI have been active for a very long time, I haven’t taken my leave for a very long time, so I will go and rest a little but the truth is that I have passion for the ICT industry. I am very much around the ICT industry because currently I am the president of NIRA. Even though I do it on voluntary level, I will continue to volunteer. You will still be seeing my face in the papers, still be hearing my on radio because we are going to push the ‘dot ng’. Currently we are going to make sure that small medium size enterprises that are registering with CAC get a ‘dot ng’ domain name. Domain name is where the world is going. I will be in the driver’s seat of promoting domain name in this country. ‘Name.ng’ is used for individuals, ‘school .ng’ for schools, ‘gov.ng’ for government, ‘com.ng’ is for commercial people, ‘net.ng’ is for technical and ICT, ‘edu.ng’ for tertiary institutions and research institution. This is what I will be driving for the country and there will be interview on it again.

Are there any members of staff that you want to commend?

I have worked in several departments let me start by saying practically everyone. My colleagues here in Consumer Affairs. All of them. In Finance, Duro and Mrs. O; they did good work with me when I was in finance. When I left for tariff and charges, I had Babajika who worked with me. Also, Nkechi Obikwe did a very good job and I want to say that she will go places if she keeps going this way. In Coporate Planning , Henry Nkemadu, Victor Pyrap, and Oke Anuweke. A lady in Lagos; Tolusade Omodele el Rufai. She is fantastic. In policy Competition Nnena Ukoha, Tope, Richard Eyo, whenever I think about them I say to myself those people did good work. Idris is good. I want to say Idris please continue with the good work you are doing. You will go places. He is now in the projects department. Also Galadima, in Consumer Affairs. Mrs. Nwokoro is fantastic even if she wants to go for something she will stay behind to work with me and I want to encourage herself and her team. Oladipo and her team, Mistura also. Whenever I give her a job to do I go and relax she will do it and do it well. Emeka, we call him GOC. Any project we want to do, Emeka will handle it and handle it very well. He is very good I want to commend him. I also commend Mrs. Amaku. I met her in licensing; she was a level 5 officer doing the work of a senior officer. I insisted that she be promoted and moved and nobody faulted my judgment. Edota was an officer when I came; he is now a senior officer. If you give him anything to do he does it well. I want to commend my colleagues, those that have suffered with me. When we started in Lagos, Mr Imoko, Alhaji Yusuf, few of us when you want to leave office at 10:00 pm you will be hiding to go so the CEO will not know you are going. Let me tell you our salary was N2500 basic. They were there to build what we are seeing now. I want to commend all my brothers and sisters in the Christian union. We started praying for this Commission and we have seen what God has done. Several others too numerous to mention.

On a lighter note, any thoughts or scoops on your successor?

I have no idea, but whoever it is will be carefully selected by the management and am sure that he/she will do an excellent work.

From All Of Us, Good Bye & Good Luck!!!