By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-Tech Editor
Telecommunications operators in the country have warned that nine out of the 36 states of the federation may experience telecom blackout from today if President Muhammadu Buhari does not prevail on Kogi state government to unseal certain telecom infrastructures locked down in the state.
The facilities, according to the telcos, were shut down over their alleged failure to pay some taxes and levies imposed by the state government.
However, Chairman of the umbrella body of the telcos, Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria, ALTON, Engr Gbenga Adebayo, said his members have paid all legitimate taxes and levies in the state, describing the ones in dispute as “unusual”.
70 sites shut
Adebayo said over 70 sites within the state and environs have shut down as a result of inability of its members to have access and maintain them.
He called on President Buhari to intervene urgently to avert telecom blackout that may affect Abuja, too.
A statement issued by the body and signed by Adebayo, noted: “The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, ALTON wishes to express concern about the shutting down of telecommunications facilities in Kogi State as a result of disputes arising from unusual taxes and levies demanded by the Kogi State Government through its Internal Revenue Service (KIRS).
“This issue is likely to lead to a total communications blackout in the entire Kogi State, parts of Abuja the Federal Capital Territory.”
It will also “impact on service availability in some parts of the following states: Nassarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, Niger States. These are States sharing borders with Kogi State.
“This situation arises as a number of critical telecommunications sites belonging to our members have been closed and sealed up by Kogi State Government in an attempt to increase Internally Generated Revenue IGR collection.
“This action followed an ex-parte court order obtained by the KIRS over unsubstantiated allegations that our members are in default of tax payments to the state government (which is not the truth) and access to these critical telecom sites has been denied.
“As result of these actions by the state government, our members are unable to refuel power generators in these sites, a situation which has led to outage of over 70 sites including hub sites across parts of Kogi State.
“Now, with likely impact on nine states surrounding Kogi (namely:- Nasarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, Niger States.
“These are states sharing borders with Kogi State; and Abuja the FCT inclusive.
“We are very concerned that this indiscriminate action has the potential of further leading to a total telecommunications outage in Kogi State with neighbouring states and parts of the Federal Capital Territory adversely impacted.
“To the best of our knowledge, our members have settled all statutory levies and taxes due the Kogi State Government and have taken necessary steps to comply with local laws that govern business activities within Kogi State,” Adebayo added.