By Adekunle Adekoya
FOR the telecommunications sector, it is raining, and the rain is in torrents. In the last few months, the sector has become anybody’s whipping boy, such that whosoever has the wherewithal to make his or her voice heard turns in direction of the sector.
The way we are going, the telecoms sector in Nigeria may soon become the most regulated in the world as various authorities, distinct and unrelated to the one government tasked to regulate the industry are zeroing in for a slice of the action in the sector.
One such was the recently created agency in Lagos State called the Urban Furniture Regulatory Unit (UFRU). This body was established as a parastatal of the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development and is tasked to regulate the activities of telecoms operators and internet service providers (ISPs) as it concerns erection of masts and towers.
UFRU will be managed by Mr Joe Igbokwe, who already heads LASIMRA (Lagos State Infrastructure Management and Regulatory Authority).
Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development in Lagos State, Olutoyin Ayinde who announced the birth of UFRU in Lagos recently, said “UFRU does not regulate telecommunications activities in the state and as such cannot grant licences or allocate frequencies, but backed by law to regulate masts and towers installations in the state and ensure compliance with Lagos State Laws and Regulations on Physical Planning and Urban Development.”
That is not all. To refresh memories, Ayinde added that “owners, users and operators of masts and towers, including parabolic antennae like VSAT and other types of antennae and similar structure, should register with UFRU for the purpose of sanitising the environment, and UFRU will develop, maintain and update a database of all existing telecommunications masts and base stations and similar infrastructure erected throughout the state.”
That is quite wide, and if I am correct, takes in all of us with pay-TV dishes and antennas hanging from our homes and offices, including the pay-TV operators themselves.
Personally, I see this initiative from Lagos State Government as another effort to boost internally generated revenue, which is a good thing, but looked at from another perspective, is a burden on already over-burdened Lagosians and Nigerians. Put simply, it is another form of taxation.
When you add this latest one to subsidy removal, hiked electricity tariffs for non-existent electricity, bad, unmotorable roads in many parts of Lagos, interminable traffic jams, insecurity, decaying environment and other negative things we live with daily, we can all see how much our governments love us.
Back to telecoms. Very soon, other state governments will emulate Lagos and create similar agencies, and the local governments will follow, in the spirit of federalism. Very soon there will be 36 regulators in the states, 774 in the local governments, all trying to do what NCC is tasked to do.
When all of them begin work, not counting NESREA that had been shutting down base stations, I assure you, none of us will be able to make a call. By our own hands, we would have strangled to death the only sector that is keeping hope alive in this country.