By DOTUN IBIWOYE
FROM Friday, the Lagos State government will start imposing heavy sanctions on owners of masts that are either sub-standard or not captured in its database.
According to the government all hollow piped masts that do not match its specification will be removed after the deadline.
Lagos city is said to be among cities with most telecom mast density per square kilometer in the world.
The Lagos State Government recently said it will impose fresh sanctions in the form of fines on affected telecom operators over refusal to submit the accurate list of masts they have erected in the state.
The state’s Urban Furniture Regulatory Unit, UFRU, the agency responsible for the supervision of all installed infrastructure in the state, including telecoms masts, disclosed this.
According to the agency, the idea would help the state monitor and supervise all existing and new masts in the state.
Also in February this year, the Federal Ministry of Environment said it would start sanctioning telecommunication operators which violate the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations.
Memorandum of understanding
The decision to sanction the operators was reached after the ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Communication.
Under the agreement, all telecom operators in violation of the EIA regulation will now pay the specified non-compliance and administrative fees to the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA).
All related pending cases in court should be withdrawn and affected sites re-opened within 48 hours of payment while remedial actions are being taken to address identified violations.
This signifies the multiple problems that the telecom mast is having.
UFRU’s General Manager, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, noted that the state government is worried by the discrepancies in the figures of masts submitted by some of the operators, and the refusal of other operators to submit any list.
Igbokwe said UFRU would henceforth embark on the numbering of all telecoms masts in the state, and warned that any operator whose figure varies from the actual number of masts it operates in Lagos, would attract a penalty of N5 million per mast. He therefore called on operators to be honest in submitting the list of their operated telecoms masts without further delay.
He affirmed that UFRU would begin decommissioning of all hollow type masts and towers in the state, after April 30 this year.
The oil companies, ICT companies, hotels, schools, banks, insurance companies, government agencies, and other small users of communications masts were said to have ignored the state government’s ultimatum to replace old and dangerous hollow type masts with galvanized steel masts.
Igbokwe also said that several people have lost their lives and property worth millions of naira to collapsed masts in the state though the dangers of hollow type masts, and insisted that all users of communications masts must replace them with galvanized steel masts.
He also said some telecom firms have submitted their list while others are yet to do so. The recent agreement reached between the operators and the state, has reduced the cost of existing masts permit to N600,000 and new masts permit to N850, 000 per mast.
Each mast has a yearly renewal fee of N30, 000. Lagos State Government recently signed an agreement with telecoms operators, under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON). In that agreement, Lagos State slashed the levies for Right of Way and telecoms infrastructure such as masts by 80 per cent.