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States’ RoW demands may cripple FG’s digital economy plans


•Telcos should not be seen as IGR sources, says ALTON

The demand by some states to charge far above the agreed Right of Way (RoW) levies is now seen as a move that will cripple Federal Government’s broadband plan and digital economy’s drive. Telecoms operators, under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), which stated this yesterday in Lagos, said the move is a huge disincentive to the regime of digital services in the country.

The Federal Government is hoping to increase the penetration from the current 37.8 percent to 70 percent in another five years. To get this done, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had licensed six Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos), with one more left. Also, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, late last year inaugurated another 25-member committee, headed by the Chief Executive Officer, MainOne Cables, Funke Opeke, to review the previous broadband plan and come up with a new National Broadband Plan (NBP 2020-2025).

Recall that between 2011 and 2015, during the regime of the pioneer minister of Communications Technology, Dr. Omobola Johnson, there was an agreement between the Ministry and the Governors’ Forum that operators should pay N145/meter, especially on federal roads, while others go between N300 to N500 per linear metre. This move was targeted at ensuring that broadband becomes ubiquitous in the country, and repositioned the economy for improved productivity.

Sadly, news filtered in on Monday that some 14 states in the country have reneged on this agreement. The states include Lagos, Kano, Anambra, Ondo, Cross River, Kogi, Osun, Kaduna, Enugu, Adamawa, Ebonyi, Imo, Kebbi and Gombe. These states now charge between N3, 000 and N6, 000 per linear metre.

Speaking with The Guardian, the Chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, said the body is worried about the proposed increase in RoW charges in some states.He said the high rate will not only impact on network roll out with attendance impact on capacity injection as well as negative effect on quality of services, it will equally affects the effort of Federal Government on digital economy and broadband penetration.Adebayo said the moves by the state will increase cost of deployment with attendant increase in end user prices.

“The Federal Government has set a good example by charging N145 per meter and this should be used as a benchmark and the upper limit of charge by any state Government.“Telecom is not an extractive industry and state governments should not see our operations as a source of Internally Generated Revenue. Rather, they should consider above all the socio-economic impact of our services and the attendant positive impact on other sectors critical to their state economic interest, job creation, security and other elements of development,” the ALTON boss stated.

Adebayo called on the Federal Government to act fast by managing these excessive charges in order not to create negative impact on the overall business economic development of the country.Responding to The Guardian enquiry yesterday, head of the new NBP team, Opeke urged states to support FG’s plan of moving the sector, cum economy forward.“I think the government is sincere about wanting to move the sector forward, and all well meaning Nigerians need to support. Not about interests but doing things that benefit the entire nation,” she stressed.

Opeke however, assured that the team she’s leading will deliver the NBP. “Projections for 2020 is that we will deliver a National Broadband Plan for Nigeria, and the government will take necessary steps to implement,” Opeke stated. Though, the Minister said pervasive broadband penetration will certainly make Nigeria a truly digital economy, but Adebayo believed that the states’ demands may not allow that to materialise if the matter is not resolved as fast as possible.

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