Enugu, Mobile Telecoms Providers Bicker Over Payment Of Statutory Fees
ENUGU State government may be heading for a showdown with operators of mobile telecoms services in the state over alleged non- payment of statutory fees.
The Guardian learned that the mobile telecoms providers owe state government over N800 million accruing from over 300 cell site base stations they mounted across the state without approval.
It was further learnt that since 2012, government, had made series of efforts to get the companies including the MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat to settle their statutory bills as well as information regarding their cell site stations.
However, while MTN and Globacom were said to have accepted and actually made some payments after an agreement it reached with officials of government on their operations as well as provided some basic information on the location of their cell site base stations, others have not complied, three years after.
It could be recalled that in an attempt to ensure compliance with the payments last year, officials of government, through the State Ministry of Lands, had sanctioned the operators by placing temporary rubber sticker seals on the cell site base stations, but these were reportedly removed by the operators.
A source said: “Even when the Government went further by placing chains and padlocks on a few of the cell sites, these were also broken by the telecoms companies so that they may gain illegal access to the sites and thereby continue to sidestep the law.
“Under pressure from various national bodies such as the National Communications Commission, the National Security Adviser etc the State Government discontinued the practice of sealing the cell sites and instead decided to seal certain offices of the telecoms companies within the State until a suitable resolution is found; these seals have also been removed, with business continuing as usual at those locations, only in Nigeria can such corporations operate in illegality with impunity.
On Friday however, officials of the ministry of lands and urban development returned to the defaulting mobile telecoms providers and began sealing of their operational offices in the state.
At Ogui road, Enugu, occupied by one of the mobile telecoms operators, an official of the Ministry sent to enforce compliance told The
Guardian on anonymity that they decided to seal off the administrative headquarters of the telecoms operator in the state to ensure compliance with the law.
“They need to obey lay down laws of the state. The Enugu State Ministry of Lands decided to go on a drive to ensure that these haphazardly developed sites are identified and all the fees due paid to the State Government in so far as the sites themselves are not in a place where they are considered harmful to the populace; in this instance the cell site base station would have to be shut down and decommissioned due to overwhelming public interest. “The Ministry will continue to pursue these goals, this drive will transcend the current administration if necessary because the information required from the telecoms companies are critical to the overall policies and plans of the Government; the Enugu State
Government will not relent until all its conditions are met and an amicable solution is found”, he said.
An official of one of the telecoms companies affected by the development however told The Guardian that they have declined to pay “because the state government is applying the said law in retrospect.”