State governors addressing increment in charges for telecommunications fibre – Minister

Communication mast used to tell the story.
Communication mast used to tell the story.

State governors under the auspices of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum have resolved to address the lingering issue of Right of Way (RoW) charges, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, has said.

According to a statement signed by his technical assistant (Information Technology), Femi Adeluyi, the minister said the governors took the decision following the intervention of the federal government.

He said the federal goverment stepped into the issue to deepen broadband penetration in the country and promote a Digital Economy for a Digital Nigeria.

The RoW charge is the levy paid to state governments for the laying of optic fibre by telecoms operators.

According to the statement, the resolution followed a presentation made by Mr Pantami at a meeting of the Governors’ Forum.

A report by THISDAY newspaper said Lagos, Kano, Anambra, Ondo, Cross River, Kogi, Osun, Kaduna, Enugu, Adamawa, Ebonyi, Imo, Kebbi and Gombe jerked up the RoW fees for telecoms infrastructure.

This newspaper reported how the federal government expressed dismay over the increment by the states, saying the increase contravened an agreement reached at the National Economic Council (NEC).

The communications minister said the increment is detrimental to the government’s digital economy agenda.

Mr Pantami said it was “disheartening to hear that some states have decided to disregard these resolutions and have, in some cases, increased the RoW charges by over 1,200%. This will no doubt impact negatively on the efforts’ being made by the federal government.

“Mr Pantami discussed the many benefits that an increase in broadband access can have on the economy of the various States,” the statement said

He noted that one of the key benefits is the rapid growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of any country that increases its broadband penetration.

He advised the governors to adopt the 2013 resolutions reached by the National Economic Council (NEC), which agreed on a maximum RoW charge of N145.00 per linear meter of fibre.

In response, the governors acknowledged the benefits of broadband penetration and the Chairman of the Governors’ Forum, Kayode Fayemi, said Mr Pantami should consider the matter resolved.

“There will no longer be any need to appeal to the governors on the issue of RoW,” the Ekiti State governor was quoted as saying.

Also, Mr Pantami discussed with the governors the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) which was unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 28,2019.

Mr Pantami urged them to key into the policy and strategy.

He informed them of the federal government’s plan to help the states with a Digital Economy Strategy, through Policy, Digital Skills and other areas of intervention.

State governments defend action

Some state government officials spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on why they increased the charges.

The Commissioner for Information, Cross River State, Asu Okang, said it was prepared to go into negotiations with telecommunication companies on the possible adjustment of charges they pay for RoW to install infrastructure, particularly telecommunications masts.

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However, the state government did not state if the negotiations with the telecommunications service providers would lead to a reduction in the current charges for the location of their masts.

The official said the state was open to negotiations on the issues raised by the companies.

The commissioner said despite the complaints from telecommunications service providers, the rates charged by Cross River State was lower than those charged by neighbouring states.

He said the rates charged by the state was within those prescribed by the federal government, adding that the telecommunications companies, of recent, had not been building new masts, but rather adopted the policy of co-location.

Also, the Senior Special Adviser to the governor of Ondo State on Information and Telecommunications Technology, Olumbe Akinkugbe, said the agency had designed a policy that could reduce cost of operations for the telecommunication companies.

Mr Akinkugbe, who is in charge of State Information and Technology Agency (SITA), however, said the companies had to be open about their infrastructural needs and their plans to achieve same.


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