By Oluwatobi Opusunju
The Founder of Computer Warehouse Group (CWG) Plc, Austin Okere has attributed the country’s low broadband penetration to greed by state officials and lack of patriotism. Okere who made this known during a recent chat with IT Edge News in Lagos, noted that there are numerous broadband opportunities in Nigeria, but none is tangible to citizens because government citizen-centric aggressive broadband policy and an unwholesome greed for money rather than development –all of which tended to stunt private broadband initiatives and also scare aware potential investors in the sub-sector.
Although, Nigeria has so far achieved about 21 percent broadband penetration, Okere argued that the country’s 2018 broadband target of 30 percent is evidently unrealistic due to factors hampering broadband roll out such as right of way (RoW), over taxation of telcos and poor security of telecoms critical infrastructures.
“Look at right of way (RoW), there are companies that are ready to put fiber in the ground but by the time you go from here to there, area boys and government will come. The last I heard was that even the telecom base stations, people go there to steal the batteries for their home inverters, which really doesn’t pay anybody because only one person is going to have the inverter all to himself and these base stations are serving so many millions of people. So, at the end of the day we are the architects of our failure,” said Okere to IT Edge News.
Okere’s position has been severally reiterated by the Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and Association of Licensed Telecom Companies of Nigeria (ALTON). Both bodies are umbrella bodies for operators in Nigeria. They have warned that multiple taxations and actions of state-backed touts at state and local government levels is scaring away investors in investing in land connectivity infrastructures that could unlock the potential of more than 19.2 terabytes from submarine cables owned by Nigerian companies those of Globacom and MainOne. While broadband lies fallow at sea, operators battle state’s limitations to leverage on the submarine cables to bring affordable broadband to millions of citizens.
“If there is broadband let’s say in Ado Ekiti, for instance, it will boost the economy of the whole of Ado Ekiti much more than the tax you make from the telecom company or whoever is digging, but they want to collect that money, so they don’t dig and they don’t provide broadband for people in Ado Ekiti. Ado Ekiti now ends up not getting the tax and broadband eventually, so it is a double lost,” he added.
A worried telecom regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), is already advancing an agenda to secure telecoms critical infrastructures as it recently signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to protect telecoms infrastructures.
There are also efforts to implement a legal framework that makes telecom infrastructures critical national infrastructures. But operators still battle with multiple taxations and an unwholesome state aggression that limits the desire of private infrastructure providers to rollout terrestrially invariably hampering Nigeria’s national broadband goals.