BY Emeka Aginam
After raising issues of multiple taxation, vandalisation of telecoms infrastructure, right of way approval among others affecting telecoms development in Lagos State by the telecoms regulatory agency, the Nigerian Communications Commission during a courtesy visit to the Lagos State Government, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, the executive Governor of the State did not mince words by disagreeing with the Commission, saying that there was nothing like multiple taxation and regulations.
Some of the these challenges, according to the Executive Vice Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Eugene Juwah in his address during the visit will include right of way, multiple taxation and regulations, protection of telecoms infrastructures, among others.
While disagreeing with NCC management that there was nothing like multiple regulations and taxation, Fashola said that the Commission can only regulate frequency, spectrum among other issues but cannot regulate erection of mast.
“Mast and towers are physical structures. Some of what we call taxes are purely administrative cost handed down to the operators, which is normal. . They are not taxes. Telecom operators must pay for land where they erect mast and towers” Fashola said.
Accordingly, he said that Lagos State will not in any way deliberately impose fees on telecoms operators because in the name of generating money from right of way approval.
“Telecommunications and regulation are multiple jurisdictional and should be addressed as such. Masts and towers are physical structures on ground, and must be regulated by both the telecoms regulatory body and the state government, through the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development,” Fashola told IT Journalists and NCC management team.
While frowning on a situation where telecoms operators dug up roads and deny Nigerians easy access to road usage because they have permit to lay cables across the country, he stated that operators should try to make use of existing ducts in the state, instead of cutting roads with unnecessary, which he said affects road users.
.”We are already aware that you are involved with other governors in the National Economic Council in discussing and finding solutions to the issue of RoW in the country as currently being championed by Vice President Namadi Sambo. We only need to urge you to continue to support these patriotic efforts so that the objectives of providing easy passage for telecommunications infrastructure, to accelerate and encourage more investments in the country, are realized.
“Another challenge stems from ignorance, even at decision making levels. Many people do not understand that telecommunications can only be better with more infrastructures.
“For instance, in the UK, there are more than 65,000 base stations for telecommunications services, in a land mass that is far less than Nigeria’s.
“Nigeria is yet to achieve 25,000 installations across its huge land mass, yet many feel that we already have enough and are defacing the environment. In a place like Lagos with very huge population, we have fewer base stations than require” the EVC told the Governor.
This situation, according to the NCC EVC was made worse by multiple taxations and regulations that awaited the service providers at the various levels of government, including state governments, local governments, and even some communities.
In most cases, he said that telecom masts and towers easily became specific targets for multiple taxes and regulations even where there were other masts and towers in existence, or even when appropriate taxes have been imposed at the Federal Level.