The saga between ALTON (Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria) and the Kogi State Government, albeit now resolved, have led many stakeholders to lament the lack of understanding of the value of telecom services that government officials have.
Kogi State government had during this crisis threatened to shut down all operations of affected telecom company’s services in the state and beyond.
Speaking on the side line at the fourth quarter forum of Nigeria Information Technology Reporters’ Association (NITRA) held recently, Dr. Henry Nkemadu, deputy director/ head, Special Intervention Projects, NCC, who represented the EVC, said that the Kogi/ALTON face-off brought to the fore the fact that some state government officials lack basic understanding of the economic impact of telecommunications service on their states.
‘The urgent response we saw when the government heard of the consequence of shut-down of telecom mast which will also affect surrounding states among others we have witnessed shows that there is need to educate state policy implementation officers on the benefits of ICT,’ he said.
Mohammed Rudman, managing director, Internet Exchange Point of Nigeria, said that there are constant bottlenecks in terms of regulations just to boost internally generated revenue for the state.
‘There are various kinds of regulations, as at the last time I checked there are 38 different levies and taxes on telecommunications operators across the federal, states and local government areas.
‘This is huge. It doesn’t make sense. What should happen is for each state to possibly harmonize and get under one ministry where all the telecommunications-related taxes and regulations can be pursued and be paid instead of going to various ministries departments and agencies.
‘I think the politicians do not really understand the huge impact of ICT in the economy, development, education and all the other sectors. So, it is left for industry experts to interpret it in a layman’s knowledge to them, most of the governors and other political office holders don’t understand the huge impact of ICT to the development of their states.
‘We need to let them know that if they do this or that for operators in the next four or five years this is what they will benefit.
‘For instance, education is a problem in all the states, we can let them know how they can use ICT tools to train both the teachers and students without building bricks and mortar schools,’ he said.
Olusola Teniola, President, ATCON, seeks a law that will classify telecom equipment as critical national infrastructure to holistically solve the problem of incessant closure of cell sites by state government agencies over levies and taxes.
‘It is unfortunate that some arms of government do not understand the importance of telecommunications services to the life of their citizens, those governments put revenue ahead of the life of citizens.
‘The idea of looking at telecom as cash cow where levies and taxes are applied when the state feels they need Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is not acceptable at all. This is inimical to bridging the digital divide.
‘We are appealing to other state governments to stop closure of telecommunications infrastructure because of its impact on the citizens and youths as their future depend on the availability of telecom services for them to support electronic businesses,’ he said.