What NCC Needs From Fashola

Fashola's and Juwah at Governor's Office
Fashola’s and Juwah at Governor’s Office

Eugene Juwah, executive vice-chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission wants Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State to help in solving identified problems that impair the quality of telecommunications services in the state

|  By Vincent Nzemeke  |  Aug. 19, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

EUGENE Juwah, executive vice-chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, has sought the support of Babatunde Fashola, governor of Lagos State for the resolution of identified problems associated with right of way and multiple taxes and levies at various levels of government which have become impediments to realizing good quality telecom services in Nigeria.

Juwah, who alongside two commissioners and other officials of the commission, recently paid a courtesy visit to Fashola at his office in Lagos, informed the governor that Lagos play a crucial role in telecommunication services in Nigeria because more than 15 percent of mobile phone subscribers in Nigeria are based in the state. He added that the nation has about 119 million active subscribers while teledensity has reached more than 85 percent from some 0.4 percent and contributed more than 7.8 percent to the national Gross Domestic Product.

Reiterating the importance of quality service in Lagos and other parts of the country, Juwah noted that it was also important to address the challenges posed by issues of Right of Way.  “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 right of way in the country as currently being championed by Vice President Namadi Sambo. We 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 realised.”

Juwah also acquainted the governor with the level of the nation’s infrastructure deficit with reference to the paucity of masts and towers in Nigeria with less than 25,000 base stations compared with a country like the United Kingdom which has up to 65,000 base stations. He also made reference to a 2009 survey by the NCC which showed that out of a total of 6, 196 masts and towers in Lagos, 48 percent belonged to corporate bodies and individuals, 25 percent belonged to telecom operators, 18 percent to banks, eight percent to unidentified owners and two percent to the broadcast industry. He said even if the number of base stations owned by operators, which was 2, 975 then, had increased by 100 percent, it would still be far from what is needed to serve Lagos subscribers alone.

Juwah hinged the shortage in mast to the multiple taxations and regulations that must be met by service providers in the state. He said the taxes imposed by various levels of government discourage telecom companies and individuals from owning masts leaving them to depend on the few existing ones. He called on the governor to review the taxation system in the state in other to encourage more investors.

“We have noticed that some of these regulations exist in Lagos and it is our hope that this progressive administration will be disposed to taking a serious look at some of them with a view to eliminating double and inequitable taxation. This will, in turn, engender an enabling business environment that would encourage more investments and accelerate deployment of more telecom infrastructure and facilities.”

Juwah also drew the governor’s attention to the vandalisation of telecommunications infrastructure in some parts of the state which has taken its toll on the quality of telecommunication services. He appealed to the governor to support the commission’s effort in ensuring the passage of infrastructure bill at the National Assembly because Lagos is mostly affected when telecom infrastructures are vandalised.

The NCC boss also urged Fashola to collaborate in the implementation of the Emergency Communications Centres, ECC, across the country whose pilots centres have already been commissioned in Awka  and Minna.

Responding, Fashola commended Juwah for the visit. He said the commission need his support as much as that of governors in other states. “You will regulate the allocation of frequencies, you will regulate bandwidths and so many other things but you cannot regulate where the towers and mast are positioned, you need me as indeed you need all of my colleagues to determine where the right of way will be.”

He regretted that a lot of time had been lost in the legal process regarding approvals for the operators to erect masts because of some disagreements.  Fashola, however, disagreed with the use of the term “multiple taxation” as a proper way to describe levies imposed on operators for services rendered to them at state levels. He said the operators’ license granted by the federal government does not foreclose payment for the land and other associated fees.

“It is an incidence of the nature of business that they have entered. The issues we should be talking about is how to mitigate cost and that is what I’ve told my colleagues that we cannot make revenue from the cost of right of way or from the cost of setting up masts and towers.”

He also called on the operators to protect existing assets when setting up their own infrastructures. “There must be a sense of patriotism from the contractors engaged by telecoms companies. They must protect existing assets. You cannot damage the few roads we have because you want to erect equipment.”

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