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‘Telcos should resist RoW tariff hike by states’

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The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, has asked telecommunications operators to resist any move by states to hike Right of Way (RoW) tariffs.

The Minister said tariff hike was part of the agenda resolved when his team met with the Governor Kayode Fayemi-led, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF).

According to him, the issues with RoW have been addressed with many governors signing Executive Orders to drastically reduce the cost per linear meter, while some have totally eradicated charging fees for the deployment of telecom infrastructure.

Pantami, who stated this during a webinar organised by the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), pointed out that RoW is beyond the seven governors that have agreed to the N145 per linear meter, “during the meeting we had with state governors, at least 34 governors were present and some represented. It was agreed that they will work with the N145 per linear meter instead of the arbitrary charges we have had. So, telecoms operators should resist any hike in RoW. There has been a general consensus with the Governors’ Forum.”

According to him, prior to the resolution of the RoW issues, many operators disclosed they spent as much as 70 per cent of their investment in paying for right of way charges.

“Examples of amounts charged for RoW per linear metre in the past included N4,500 and N5,500, some states even charged about N16,000! To give a better illustration, for a particular state, the estimated cost of connecting two Local Government Areas was a staggering N560 million before the implementation of the RoW resolution, and now it costs just N150,000!,” he stated.

Checks showed that states, including Ekiti, Imo, Kaduna, Katsina, and Plateau have issued Executive Orders agreeing on a maximum RoW charge of N145 per linear meter of fibre.

Pantami hinted that the Ministry is working to ensure there is an Executive Order on Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) in the telecoms industry.

He said: “A copy of the draft bill has been received by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, and the National Security Adviser. We have finished with the legal and security aspects of the Executive Order. We await the Presidency approval. I believe it should be ready as soon as possible.”

Further, Pantami said on its part, the government has made several strategic efforts to protect telecom investments in the country. He said the Federal Government is working with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to install unique identification (ID) on every infrastructure, which will enable security agencies to track and protect such infrastructure across Nigeria.

The Minister also used the meeting to challenge operators to always put the interest of consumers at heart, noting that when the interest of the subscribers is protected, the industry would be seen to be moving forward.

“Protecting the interest of the consumers, particularly the poor masses are top of our priority as a government. They require fairness from all of us. We must see them as kings because they really deserve the best,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the operators equally expressed their frustration with the hope that the challenges bedevilling the sector will be addressed as fast as possible.

ATCON President, Olusola Teniola, said there was a need to ensure a competitive environment through interdependence and collaboration, which should be targeted at ensuring that consumers get good services for their money.

On his part, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), VDT Communications Limited, Biodun Omoniyi, said to sustain the sector’s growth trajectory, the Federal Government would need to put an enabling environment in place.

According to him, the criticality of the sector to the economy was brought to the fore during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said affordability and availability of services could only be guaranteed if the government puts the enabling environment in place, noting that access to foreign exchange (forex) and naira devaluation were already taking a toll on operating cost.

Omoniyi sought for the government’s intervention to ease access to forex because the sector is a chain.

Similarly, the first Vice President, ATCON, Ikechuhwu Nnamani, said the twin challenge of source and cost of funding should be addressed frontally.

He urged that 30 per cent of the N15 trillions Infrastructure Fund launched by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), should go to the telecoms industry because it is also a critical sector of the economy, while the Chief Executive Officer, Pan African Towers, Wole Abu, said digital infrastructure is crucial to the development of the country.

He added that access to infrastructure and cyber security are still a challenge, underpinning the need for more cash flow to develop the sector.
Similarly, the President, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMs), Deolu Ogunbanjo, urged the NCC to look into the significant drop in quality of services.

Ogunbanjo urged the telecoms regulator to prevail on the service providers to comply with the data roll-over directive of the Minister.


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