By Oluwatobi Opusunju
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has engaged relevant agencies across the states in charge of telecommunications matters and other stakeholders to help address the mounting siege against telcos regarding Right of Way (RoW), multiple taxation, levies and other sectorial challenges suffered by operators in Nigeria’s federation of 36 states.
The engagement took place this week as part of the commission’s national stakeholder forum on ‘’Optimizing the Benefits of Telecoms Infrastructure in Nigeria’’ in Abuja. NCC is worried that levies and tax imposed on telcos by states local government may ultimately erode confidence in the industry and scare off investors.
The forum drew participants from across the states. In attendance were heads of agencies, and consultants to explore how to deepen the benefits of a sane telecom environment and equally resolve the challenges of RoW and multiple taxation.
The Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, while delivering the keynote address emphasized that since the full-fledged commercial mobile communications started in Nigeria in 2001, stakeholders have been grappling with the myriad of challenges which negatively impact quality of service experience in the country’s communications networks.
“These challenges are generally termed as ‘ecosystem issues’, and they manifest in frequent disruptions of the operation of telecoms infrastructure; very high and often discriminatory fees for rights-of-way and other permits,” he noted.
RoW and multiple taxation have become recurring challenges in the telecoms industry, negatively impacting on quality of service (QoS) as well as investment into the sector. But with a legal framework for telecoms infrastructure rollout as well as harmonization of taxation/regulation on telecoms infrastructure in place, stakeholders believe the challenges can be invalidated.
Danbatta assured that the commission was committed to finding a lasting solution to the menace while promoting a sane telecom environment.
Multiple taxations and levies are a recurring challenge in the states for telcos with local authorities arbitrarily shutting down operators’ facilities. 9Mobile recently had its operation shut down in Rivers State, southern part of Nigeria by local tax authorities.
Association of Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ATCON), the umbrella body for telecom companies has asked for harmonisation of Nigeria’s tax regime so that federal and states tax regimes do not in conflict to make telcos end-victims as is the case now.