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At last, the Lagos State government has cut down on telecoms levies, in order to allow for speedy infrastructure and broadband rollout in the state.
Telecoms taxes and levies in the state was slashed by over 40 per cent, while Right of Way fees was slashed to N500 per linear metre, down from N5000, representing a reduction of over 90 per cent.
The state however warned that the reduction was on the condition that operators would use approved and qualified contractors who to ensure the integrity of the road after the fibre had been installed in the event that there was no fibre duct on the road. Telecoms operators saw the reduction as a welcomed development, and have agreed to a ‘dig once’ policy whereby the first operator to dig the road for fibre installation would install a duct with spare capacity for other operators to use when they wanted to install fibre instead of digging up the road again.
Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator, Dr. Eugene Juwah, had in August this year, led a team of NCC to the State House in Lagos to discuss the issue of telecoms levies in the state, and how such levies could be expunged, but Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola, insisted that telecoms operators operating in the state, must pay all levies, since it costs government a lot to provide infrastructure for the state.
But the decision to rescind its earlier position on telecoms levies was as a result of the intervention of the Federal Government that brokered a meeting between it, the Lagos State Government and the telecoms operators at the same State House in Lagos recently.
The Federal Ministry of Communications Technology, the Lagos State Government, and Telecoms Operators, signed a landmark agreement to remove constraints to the installation, rollout and deployment of base stations and fibre optic cable, for easy broadband penetration in the state.
The agreement was brokered between the Federal Ministry of Communications Technology, the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) and the Lagos State government.
Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, with some ATCON officials held a closed door meeting at the State House recently to address the issues of taxes, levies, decommissioned sites and Right of Way fees militating against quality of service in the state.
Present at the meeting, were Governor Fashola; members of ATCON; Mrs. Omobola Johnson; Commissioner of Science and Technology, Mr. Biyi Mabadeje; Commissioner of Works, Mr. Obafemi Hamzat and officials from Etisalat; Main One; MTN; and Globacom.
They deliberated on issues of high incidents of fees and taxes, restrictions on the rollout of base stations and fibre networks, and the decommissioning of sites, among others.
ATCON members at the meeting expressed concerns that the issues were making it difficult for operators to rollout the much needed Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure in the state.
Responding, Fashola first addressed the fact that good infrastructure rollout and deployment was in the best interest of residents of Lagos State.
He made it clear that it was not the wish of the state to prevent operators from rolling out. "We need you to roll out probably more than you need it, but we do not need it at the expense of our roads, or lives of the people. Infrastructure must be built to very high standards, for example, masts must be built with galvanized steel and not hollow pipes to prevent them from collapsing."
He added, "You may find that sites that may have been decommissioned by the Urban Furniture Regulatory Unit (UFRU), probably did not meet these standards or had not paid up their levies. When telecoms masts are badly build, they collapse easily and the state is left in the middle of it all to pick up the pieces."
ATCON members while agreeing there should be a standardised approach for excavating roads where no ducts existed, confirmed that there were no telecoms masts in the state constructed with hollow piles. All telecoms masts in Lagos State are built with galvanized steel, they insisted.
ATCON members also explained that the taxes, levies and right of way fees for Lagos were prohibitive, and want the governor to review the fees.
Lagos Commissioner of Science and Technology, Mr. Biyi Mabadeje read out an agreement reached to reduce taxes and levies in Lagos by over 40 per cent and Right of Way fees to N500 per linear meter down from N5000, which is a reduction of over 90 per cent.
He however said the agreement was on the condition that operators accept to use approved and qualified contractors who would ensure the integrity of the road after the fibre had been installed in the event that there was no fibre duct on the road. Satisfied with the agreement reached, Fashola said, "All new roads in the state already have ducts. Telecoms operators should therefore submit annual infrastructure plans to the state to allow for proper planning on both sides."
The meeting ended on a high note with ATCON members consenting that the agreement reached was a significant step forward and in the right direction. The Minister praised Lagos State for leading the change in removing many of the barriers and obstacles to telecoms infrastructure deployment in Lagos and expressed hope that many other states would follow suit by allowing speedy rollout of telecoms and broadband infrastructure in their respective states.