Stakeholders lament lack of govt support for telcos


Stakeholders in the telecommunications industry has berated the Federal Government and the Nigerian Communications Commission over their inability to provide assistance to telecom companies (telcos) in the global system for mobile communications and code division multiple access sector that had their base transceiver stations and other telecom infrastructure destroyed through act of vandalism by insurgents in the North-Eastern part of the country.
The support for the network providers has been described as crucial as telecommunications play a vital role in any country’s development.
It has a very broad range of applications that span across health, education, agriculture, e-government, among others and enhances economic growth through making competitiveness possible, increased trade and investments, and also as a social facilitator.
Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria, Engr Gbenga Adebayo, affirmed that the destruction of telecom cell sites could result to poor service for many months, as a BTS takes six months to build, and more if complications in the importation of equipment is taken into consideration.
He said government and relevant agencies should have provided succor to telecom operators that had their infrastructure worth billions of naira damaged, as a way of hastening the process of rendering quality service to subscribers in that part of the country.
According to Adebayo, acts of terrorism and flooding are circumstances beyond what insurance can cover and in that situation, it is expected that soft landing should be provided, in terms of tax incentives, which are payable annually to the regulator.
“We won’t say it should be done by government by way of giving us funds, but some kind of cushion effect to meet with the loss we have suffered in those areas can be achieved,” he affirmed.
Also, former president of the Association of Telecom Companies of Nigeria, Engr Lanre Ajayi, stated that the telcos should be granted incentives similar to tax exemption granted to GSM operators at the inception of telecom services. He added that government should facilitate access to low cost funding and financing of long term loan facility by commercial banks.
Meanwhile, telcos are waiting patiently for the passage of the bill declaring telecom infrastructure as critical national infrastructure, which non-passage has been a major concern to telecom operators in the GSM sector as well as telecom associations and stakeholders, who felt the delay would hinder the required development in the industry.
Though, this has been echoed at various telecom forums, the huge loss by operators as a result of vandalisation of cell sites, multiple taxation, illegal levies and other infrastructure is enormous as it amounts to about N20 billion annually.
While addressing members of the association during an extra-ordinary annual general meeting in Lagos, Adebayo stated that he has submitted its position paper on the critical national infrastructure bill to the National Assembly, Ministry of Communication Technology, the NCC, and the National Security Adviser, adding that presentations were also made to the House of Representatives on the relevance of the bill, which would help protect infrastructure that supports the delivering of quality service on operators’ networks.
Adebayo affirmed that huge investments over $32 billion has been made in the telecom sector, adding that the high rate of vandalisation of BTS, and closure of major cell sites that serves as hub of network delivery to others within a state and beyond is alarming.
He said that the Federal Government, through its relevant agencies should provide protection for them, as the sector contributes a lot to the gross domestic product of the country.
He stated that for Nigeria to be competitive in a world where competitiveness is determined by knowledge, the necessary policies, laws, and regulations; the enabling environment must be created to maximise private sector investment in the ICT sector.
Adebayo affirmed that Alton’s study on the socioeconomic impact on telecom operation in the country shows that while investment in the sector is significant, government actions are increasingly becoming a disincentive.