Telecom operators threaten to cut off Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom, Kaduna and Ekiti

Posted by News Express | 29 January 2016 | 2,989 times

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Ondo, Ogun, Osun and four other states may be disconnected from Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) network over closure of telecommunication base stations (known as Base Transceiver Station (BTS) as a result of service providers’ refusal to pay alleged multiple levies and taxes to the affected state governments.

Others states that are to be removed from the mobile network coverage of GSM service providers are Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom, Kaduna and Ekiti should disruption of telecoms infrastructure persists in the states.

GSM operators under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), yesterday, made this known, explaining that they were considering disconnecting seven states in the country from their network service coverage over the lingering issue of multiple levies and arbitrary shutdown of BST in the states concerned.

The Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, explained that the seven states were not among the northern states where total vandalisation has always been a reoccurrence on operators’ infrastructure due to insurgency in the area.

He alleged that the states have been targeting telecommunications companies to make unlawful and arbitrary demands for payments, adding that some government agents had even brought down operators’ infrastructure to force them to pay the alleged multiple levies.

According to Adebayo, “Already, 35 telecoms base stations have been shut down in Ondo State alone. And these are infrastructure hub that service neighbouring states. We are considering very carefully the situation of site closure and harassment of our members in some of the following states and we may begin any time soon to have them feel the impact of their actions on telecom operators if they do not desist from deliberate disruption of our operations.

“These are Ogun, Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Osun and Kaduna states due to arbitrary closure of telecom sites and actions of government impacting on our operations,” he restated.

He asked, “What has telecom operations got to do with ‘Eco Tax for gaseous emission and gaseous emission when we do not have moving machineries and production lines? What has telecom service got to do with sewage, sanitation and public convenience levy, when we are not hotel and bar operators?

“What has telecom services got to do with sanitation and refuse effluent tax when we don’t operate fast food centres? How can a base stations situated in farm land be regarded as business premises and therefore liable to business premises tenement rate payment?”

On taxes and multiple levies, the telecoms President said: “We continue to record cases of arbitrary site closure in many states of the federation in an attempt to force service providers to pay local taxes and levies, some of which are multiple in nature and most of which are only aimed toward telecom operators.”

He said telecoms firms consider tax payment as a matter of patriotic duty, being one of the elements of good corporate governance as there is fiscal pressure on Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the respective Federal, State & LGA, particularly, in the face of dwindling Federal Allocation

However, he said: “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 operations. We are calling for a cross-sector/multi-stakeholder approach to reduce growing burden of taxation on our industry.

“Telecom being in the Exclusive List of federal taxes, there is a need to streamline all such taxies and levies which such should not be aimed mainly at telecoms infrastructure.

“Sealing of our sites, without following the guidelines clearly provided by the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) and in line with best practices according to the operators will no longer be tolerated.”

He said the operators have resolved that any state or local government authority that closes the telecoms sites, “our members will not reopen such sites. We will serve the necessary warnings and if such practices continue, we are then faced with two options: first is to pay the charges by such state government, and to increase the tariff chargeable for calls originating and terminating from networks in such states with all the attendant service delivery issues.

“Where such actions on the part of government continue, we shall then advise all our members, after due consultation with relevant authorities, because of the security and economic implications, to shut down the entire network in such state for one full day as a final warning to such state or local government area. Enough is enough.”

He, however, appealed to the President Muhammadu Buhari to declare ‘telecom Infrastructure as Critical National Security and Economic Infrastructure’ as provided by the cybercrime law of 2015, adding that “unless we have first level of protection by government, it will be difficult to continue to provide uninterrupted services with the type of venerability of our members and their infrastructure.”

•Text courtesy of Newswatch Times. Photo shows ALTON Chairman, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo.

Source: News Express

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