41.3 million telecoms users may get service blackout in Abuja, nine states
This followed the forceful shut down of facilities in Kogi State, due to disputes arising from unusual taxes and levies demanded by the state government.
The payments, which are driven by the Kogi State Internal Revenue Service (KIRS), are for the Ministry of Environment and Physical planning, Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, and Kogi State Environmental Protection Board.
The Guardian leant that the issue is likely to lead to a total communications blackout in the Kogi State, and parts of Abuja with possible impact on service availability in neighbouring Nasarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara and Niger states.
It was further learnt that the 10 affected states have about 41.3 million active telecommunications subscribers, who would be affected by the service blackout.
At an interaction with journalists in Lagos yesterday, the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, said the dispute arose because the government, in pursuant of revenues, closed down some critical telecommunications sites belonging to service providers.
Adebayo said the action followed an ex-parte court order obtained by the KIRS over unsubstantiated allegations that ALTON members are in default of tax payments to the state government, while access to these critical telecom sites has been denied.
According to him, the issue started with the closure of three sites, “but as at the weekend, the closure had affected 70 sites while 150 sites were already down as at yesterday.”
Adebayo, accompanied by some representatives of other telecoms operators, including Damian Udeh of nTel and the Executive Secretary of ALTON, Gbolahan Awonuga, said: “Our members have settled all statutory levies and taxes due to the Kogi State government and have taken necessary steps to comply with local laws that govern business activities within the state.”
According to him, the KIRS is now asking for Annual Right of Way (ROW) renewal; Social Services Contribution; Employee Economic Development Levy; Mast site premises renewal; Fire service yearly renewal and Payment of environmental levy.
Others are failure to submit an environmental impact assessment report; failure to register industry, failure to submit environmental audit report every two years, and storage of petroleum products/radioactive materials without written permission from KSEPB.
Adebayo, who said the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has intervened on the matter, appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to order settlement of the dispute.
Adebayo said ALTON is worried that the action will jeopardise communication services to security agencies, banks in the affected areas, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other critical agencies of government.