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Telecommunications operators take sector’s challenges to minister

By Adeyemi Adepetun
20 September 2019   |   3:44 am
Telecommunications (telecoms) operators in Nigeria have beckoned on the Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, to rescue the sector, especially against the challenges threatening the growth of the industry.

Director General (NITDA), Pantami. Photo/Twitter/nitdanigeria

Telecommunications (telecoms) operators in Nigeria have beckoned on the Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, to rescue the sector, especially against the challenges threatening the growth of the industry.

The operators, under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), said the quick intervention of the minister would help reposition the sector and enable it contribute more on the economy.

ALTON, in a congratulatory letter to the minister, said that access to basic communications services have transformed personal and business productivity, enhanced governance and facilitated security services delivery in the country.

The body also stressed that there is no gainsaying that Information Communication Technology (ICT) also has a direct impact on the performance of government at all levels.

ALTON Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo, and Executive Secretary, Kazeem ‘Ladepo, who both signed the congratulatory letter, said the ICT sector accounted for approximately 10 per cent of nominal GDP in 2016, with a direct contribution of over N1.549 trillion to the economy.

They stressed that the sector consistently accounted for over 30 per cent of Nigerian Foreign Direct Investment since its deregulation in the year 2001, and has created over 20,000 direct and 1.5 million indirect jobs.

According to ALTON, despite the milestones, it is of great concern to stakeholders that the ICT sector is still operating below its potential, as it is faced with fundamental challenges militating against network enhancement and development as well as inadequate infrastructure to support broadband roll out.

The telecoms body noted that the provision of first class telecoms service in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja has been hampered by the refusal of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) to grant permits to its members to build infrastructure.

“Despite concerted engagement, FCDA has maintained that due to the need to maintain the Abuja Master Plan, it will not grant approval to our members to build new sites in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja,” ALTON stated.

The operators stated that without adequate infrastructure, the provision of qualitative telecommunications services cannot be guaranteed and urged the minister to use his good office to liaise with the FCDA to identify suitable locations for new sites build by our members to ensure the provision of qualitative telecoms service in FCT and environs.

They said the sector requires more base stations, more resilient infrastructure and other elements to support stable telecoms operations, adding: “However, we are faced with a number of issues for which we require intervention of government at the highest level.”

They also raised concerns that the Amended Taxes & Levies Order 2015, engendered the institution of multiplicity of taxes across different tiers of government, pointing out that the Amended Order failed to fix the taxable rate resulting in the imposition of arbitrary levies and charges at the state government levels.

ALTON said the industry is also burdened with enactment of laws at the state government levels to legitimate spurious levies and charges on members, which negates the ease of doing business in Nigeria.

Furthermore, the telecoms body said its members have continue to record incidences of sabotage, outright vandalisation and arbitrary site closure in across the federation intended to coerce and exert pressure to compel the payment of multiple and discriminatory taxes and levies targeted at telecom facilities for the purpose of revenue generation.

Some of these taxes, according to them include ecology tax for gaseous emission; sewage, sanitation and public convenience levy; sanitation and refuse effluent tax, among others.

ALTON also urged the minister to help fast track the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) bill, which continued to linger for years at the National Assembly, so that there could be protection for telecoms facilities in the country.

“Our industry supports many other economic sectors of the economy. We are also the first layer of critical infrastructure for socio economic development and security. It is pertinent to state that unless telecoms facilities have first level of protection by Government, it will be difficult to provide uninterrupted services to the citizenry.

“ALTON respectfully requests for an Executive Order to be issued designating “Telecom Infrastructure as Critical National Security and Economic Infrastructure” as prescribed in the Cybercrime Act, 2015. We commend our regulator for being in the forefront of making sure that the ease of doing business is achieved by all stakeholders in the Industry.”