By Prince Osuagwu & Emeka Aginam
The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, ALTON, at the weekend decried the heavy taxation imposed on telecom operators in Nigeria by different layers of government, saying it weighs down their operations.
The group through its Chairman Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, urged Federal Government to harmonise levies on operators to ease access to deployments of necessary infrastructure that would enhance telecommunications services in the country.
Adebayo, who addressed newsmen in Lagos tasked the government to pass laws that would make the vandalisation of telecommunications infrastructure a serious offence punishable by long years of imprisonment.
He said that until government declares telecom infrastructure as ‘Critical National Security and Economic Infrastructure’ as provided by the cybercrime law of 2015, vandals would not restrain themselves from wilfully damaging infrastruture which in turn results in poor quality of service.
According to him, “the Telecom industry supports many other economic sectors whose operations and trade depend on our services. We are also in the first layer, when it comes to critical technology service for enhanced safety and security.”
He also disclosed that the association was very concerned about the recurring cases of telecom sites closure by government agents.
“The States are treating our industry as an extractive industry and imposing myriads of taxes on our members and closing down the base stations arbitrarily.
“We believe that taxes and levies should be broad-based and fairly distributed across all sectors of the economy. There is therefore no justification for targeted and sometime very high taxes on telecom operator. We are calling for a cross-sector/multi-stakeholder approach to reduce growing burden of taxation on our industry,”he added.
According to him, the Nigerian telecom industry is over hyped even when several operators are going under by the day. “When we started, we had up to 31 members but today, we are less than 15. If the sector is that robust, why is the number of operators decreasing rather than increasing,” he queried.
He however stated that the irony of the situation was that most of the operators who failed in telecoms business have been growing rapidly in other areas other than telecom that they ventured into.
ALTON’s position was corroborated by The Nigerian telecoms regulatory authority, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, which feared that the benefits and services from the telecom industry were also under serious threat by the spate of vandanlization of telecom infrastructure across the country.
The Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, last week in Lagos during a road show campaign against vandanlization of telecom infrastructure, said the Commission was worried that vandanlization of telecom infrastructure was slowing the pace of growth and contributing to the poor quality of services experienced by Nigerian telecom subscribers.
Danbatta, who was represented by the Commission’s Director, Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo, noted that nearly 17 years after the return of democratic governance to Nigeria, telecommunications remained the biggest dividend from this democracy, “Over 80 million people have access to the Internet, 152 million active telephone lines as at November, 2015, so much that telecommunications has become an indispensable device in the hands of most Nigerians”, Danbatta explained. He spoke at the flag off of a roadshow campaign against telecom infrastructure vandalism in Lagos.