Telecommunications companies in the country handed the federal government a seven-day deadline Tuesday to persuade Kogi state to open some of their facilities that have been under lock and key for a few days.
Failure to unseal the facilities within seven days, the telecoms claim, will leave them with little choice but to take unspecified actions that will undoubtedly harm the country’s corporate reputation.
When asked to expose some of the acts, the telcos said all they could say was that they would be detrimental to the image of a government that has taken steps to make doing business easier.
They also expressed concern about the deteriorating quality of services in the FCT and Abuja, claiming that this is due to the Federal Capital Development Authority’s (FCDA) inability to grant telcos permits to build infrastructure in the Federal capital city, according to the office of the Director for Signage and Advertisement.
They urged President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and the leading security officers to exert pressure on these two states in order to avoid a nationwide blackout.
Remember that telcos under the umbrella of the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria, ALTON, warned on Monday that if the Kogi state government kept some of their telecom infrastructures in the state locked down, nine out of the thirty states of the federation would experience telecom blackouts.
According to the telecoms, the facilities were shut down due to the state government’s claimed failure to collect certain taxes and levies.
At a press conference in Lagos yesterday, Chairman of the telcos’ umbrella group, the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria, ALTON, Engr Gbenga Adebayo, claimed his members had paid all lawful taxes and levies in the state, characterizing the ones in question as “strange.”
Over 70 sites in the state and surroundings have been shut down as a result of the inability of its members to access and maintain them, according to Adebayo, who called on President Buhari to intervene immediately to avert a telecom blackout that might affect Abuja as well.
“The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, ALTON, wishes to express concern about the closure of telecommunications facilities in Kogi State as a result of disputes over unusual taxes and levies demanded by the Kogi State Government through its Kogi State Internal Revenue Service,” Adebayo said (KIRS).
“This issue is anticipated to result in a total communications blackout in Kogi State, parts of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, and possible service disruption in Nassarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, and Niger States.” These are the states that share Kogi’s boundaries.
“This scenario has arisen as the Kogi State Government has shuttered and sealed a number of vital telecommunications sites belonging to our members in an effort to improve its Internally Generated Revenue IGR Collection.
This action was prompted by an ex parte court order obtained by the KIRS in response to spurious allegations that our members are in default of tax payments to the state government (which is false) and that access to these important telecom sites has been prohibited.
“As a result of the state government’s actions, our members are unable to refill power generators in these sites, resulting in the outage of over 70 sites, including hub sites, throughout Kogi State.” Now, the nine states around Kogi (Nasarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, and Niger) are expected to be affected. These are states that share boundaries with Kogi State), as well as Abuja, including the Federal Capital Territory.
“We are quite afraid that this indiscriminate action could lead to a comprehensive telecommunications outage throughout Kogi State, affecting adjacent states and parts of the Federal Capital Territory.”
“To the best of our knowledge, our members have paid all statutory levies and taxes owed to the Kogi State Government and have taken all required steps to comply with local laws governing economic activity within Kogi State,” he added.
He also stated that the Federal Capital Development Authority’s (FCDA) Office of the Director for Signage and Advertisement has refused to issue communications service providers with a permission to construct infrastructure in the Federal capital city. This has an impact on service quality in the FCT and Abuja. The FCT’s ruling authority is to blame for the problem. Telecommunications services rely on the infrastructure on the ground. We demand that the Federal Executive Council persuade the FCDA to provide our members approval/permit to deploy infrastructure. ALTON and its members will no longer put up with unfair accusations leveled against the sector.
“In order to fulfill their desire, the industry plans to start a study on altering rates to some of the unfriendly telecommunications States.” Those states that ask for non-statutory levies and taxes are those that are funded by some viable states.”
The association is also concerned about the rising cost of diesel and its impact on the high cost of doing business in general. “We are afraid that unless an intervention is made to sustain this sector, operators may be forced to go on a pricing review process.”