LASIMRA insists fiber cables in gutters must go  

Some fibre cables discovered to have passed through gutters, trees by LASIMRA

Some fibre cables discovered to have passed through gutters, trees by LASIMRA

Operators lament impact of multiple regulations, taxation on sector

The Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance and Regulatory Agency (LASIMRA), has reiterated its determination to rid the metropolis of indiscriminately laid fiber optic cables, especially in gutters and on trees.

General Manager, Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance and Regulatory Agency, Babajide Odekunle, dropped the hint at the Nigeria Information and Communications Technology Reporters’ Association (NITRA) quarterly training in Lagos, stressing that the state has issued series of notices to concerned operators to remove the critical telecommunications infrastructure from unauthorised Right of Way (RoW) but “they have remained defiant.”

Odekunle, who was represented by the Head of Commercial at LASIMRA, Adeyinka Adekunle, confirmed The Guardian’s earlier report that telecommunications service providers are indiscriminately installing fiber optic cables in gutters and on trees as RoW, thereby contributing to flooding, among others in the state.

According to him, the state will do all things necessary to get off those cables as practically as possible.He reiterated that during investigation, it was discovered that key areas such as, Saka Tinubu St., Kofo Abayomi St., Saka Tinubu/Akin Adesola St. junction, Ozumba Obamdiwe St., (junction)., Ajose Adeogun St., all on the Victoria Island, Lagos, were the worst hit by the indiscriminate installation of telecoms cables.

Meanwhile, at the NITRA training, which had its theme as: ‘Impact of Multiple Regulations on Telecoms Sector,’ the Director, Legal and Regulatory Affairs/Company Secretary, Airtel Nigeria, Shola Adeyemi, said drive to increase internally generated revenue particularly at the state and local government levels; and the notion that telecoms is a “cash cow” and should be the main target in raising revenue for state,” should be discouraged.

Adeyemi identified that mis-appreciation of the role of infrastructure in overall socio-economic development by its taxation will constrain deployment, whereas subsidising deployment of same will facilitate broader tax revenues from the ensuing value chain of economic activity. He decried how Kogi, Kano, Delta, Rivers Abia, Oyo, amongst others charged huge fees on RoW, especially on Federal roads that pass through their states.

Citing examples, Adeyemi, who was silent about the dates in his presentation, said: “Kogi State Board of Internal Revenue demanded the total sum of N2, 295, 000, 000 as ground rent fees for fibre optic cables laid on Federal roads in spite of the fact that Airtel obtained Right of Way permit from the Federal Ministry of Works; Kano State Urban Planning and Development Authority (KNUPDA) ,demanded the sum of N196, 250,000 as Right of Way fees for fibre optic cables laid along federal Highway. KNUPDA also demanded for the sum of N324, 250,000 as yearly planning permit renewal fees in spite of the fact that planning permit is a one-off fee.”“Delta State Ministry of Environment demanded for the sum of N733,000,000 as Ecology fees for the period 2007 -2015; Rivers State Internal Revenue Service demanded for the sum of N1,600,000 as Premises fitness fees;

“Abia State Ministry of Industry, Science and Technology demanded for the sum of N96, 000, 000 as Business Premises permit. Base Stations are classified as Business Premises; (Oyo) State Board of Internal Revenue demanded for the sum of N3, 000,000 as Business Premises fees.“National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) demanded for a total sum of N1,056,435,750.00 as right of way fees for fibre optic cables laid within the Federal Government’s RoW in Northern states in spite of the fact that similar fees had already been paid to Federal Ministry of Works.”

In his presentation, the Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, said over regulation is the excessive application of various rules and regulations, adding that operators recognises that there are indeed genuine concerns over the implications of the operations of not only telecommunications operators, but also all major players in other sectors of the Nigerian economy.

In demonstration of its pivotal responsibility in this regard, Adebayo said ALTON has given its full support to the NCC in the establishment of the guidelines on the technical standards for the installation of various telecommunications infrastructure.

He submitted that regulation in the name of revenue generation is a major hindrance to the satiability of the telecoms industry and a threat to the broadband penetration target as well as the entire Vision 20:2020 objectives of the government.From the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), a sister-industry body, over regulation and multiple taxation are capable of crippling the sector if not checked.

ATCON President, Olushola Teniola, represented by his first Vice President, Anthony Nwosu, said such would delay broadband roll-out.He explained that the incessant over regulation of the Nigerian telecommunications sector may lead to the inability of players in that sector to roll out services promptly to meet the targets in the National Broadband Plan.

According to him, if over regulation of the industry is not checked, some of the service providers may be forced to close shop, and this would affect the sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP, adding that some telecoms service providers may be forced to relocate their services to neighboring countries.

“Closure of companies or reduction in scope of activities may lead to job losses and worsen the unemployment situation in the country. Diversion of investment meant for telecommunications industry to other sectors”, he stated.

But the Nigerian Communications Commission’s (NCC) took a dispassionate look at the situation.According to the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof Umaru Danbatta, represented by the Director of Public Affairs, Tony Ojobo, the commission under the new management decided to reach out to other agencies and the state governors with the view to convincing them to take another look at the industry and create environments that will favour operators and thus be able to contribute more in terms of investment, employment and taxes.

“This course of action, which we will want to describe as quiet diplomacy, is helping to bring some needed stability to the sector. “We have met with their Excellencies under the governors Forum. We have told them about the existence of a document put together by the National Economic Council,which spells out charges on telco infrastructure rollout. This document stipulates charges of N145 per metre of fibre and another N20 for maintenance. There are some states where they charge as much as N8, 000 per metre length of fibre!”

“We are reaching out to their Excellencies, the Governors, individually to drive home our point of view and we are happy to announce here that the states we have visited understand our story. We were in Kaduna State where, His Excellency, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, who in other times had done so much for the telecommunications industry, is in strategic alliance with us to improve the fortunes of the industry, and by extension that of the State. We were in Kano state; and also recently visited Ogun state. In these states we noticed infrastructure gaps where the Commission can make intervention through some budgetary provisions, and highlighted issues that trouble the industry. Some of the issues are right of way, double taxation or even some kind of environmental charges resulting in closure of base stations. They have all promised to work with us,” he stated.

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