12th December, 2013
For many years, the Lagos State Government and telecommunications companies operating in the state have been at loggerheads. The bone of contention bordered on the alleged stifling of telecom infrastructure development in the state by the Governor Babatunde Fashola administration. Both sides have their cases.
While the telecoms firms accused the state government of imposing multiple tax on them, the state insisted that it has the legal right to do so. Another area of contention is the right of way and mounting of telecom masts. On its part, the state government insisted that indiscriminate cutting of roads by the firms constituted a major challenge to its efforts at maintaining good roads in the state. It also accused the telecoms firms of deliberately mounting substandard masts, which often resulted in the deaths of residents whenever they collapsed.
For the telecoms firms, their arguments were simple. The imposition of multiple taxation by the state government was wrong, while cutting up of road while laying telecoms cables was part of the sacrifice the state must be ready to make to have the desired telecoms development needed by residents.
No doubt, the positions taken by both sides have hindered development of telecoms infrastructure in the state. And while the stand-off continued, residents were clearly on the losing side as poor quality of telecoms services remained the order of the day. Efforts by stakeholders to intervene often failed as the state government refused to shift ground.
A meeting between the state government and the telecoms firms recently brokered by the Minister of Information Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, has however recorded some success as the state government has agreed to shift ground on some issues. Among others, it decided to slash Telecoms taxes and levies in the state by over 40 per cent. Right of way fee was also slashed to N500 per linear metre, down from N5,000, representing a reduction of over 90 per cent.
The state however warned that the reduction was on the condition that operators would use approved and qualified contractors who would ensure the integrity of the road after the fibre must have been installed.
Kudos must be given to the Federal Ministry of Communication Technology for taking the lead in addressing the constraints to the installation, rollout and deployment of base stations and fibre optic cables, starting with Lagos State.
We believe that this show of visionary leadership by Mrs. Johnson in brokering the meeting will spur socio-economic development, including further job creation, security and quality of telecom service provisioning.
Governor Fashola must also be commended for acceding to requests to reconsider the issues of taxes, levies, decommissioned sites and Right of Way fees militating against quality of telecoms services in the state.
As pointed out by the governor, good infrastructure rollout and deployment are in the best interest of residents of Lagos State.
We however enjoin the Minisry of Information Communication Technology to also reach out to other state governments, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) which are still hostile to the telecommunication industry.
That said, members of Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) must ensure that it institutes a standardised approach to excavating roads where no ducts existed.