Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: Telecoms Operators Plan Discriminatory Tariffs in States

Telecommunications operators in the country may soon introduce discriminatory tariffs in states with harsh operating environment.

The chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators in Nigeria (ALTON), Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, dropped the hint during an interview with newsmen in Ilorin, Kwara State.

The ALTON chairman warned that the operators would not restore services to states that illegally disrupt their operations.

He also called for a presidential statement that will "insulate our sites from interference by agencies of the federal, state and local governments and even landlords and landowners".

Adebayo noted that "some of the state governments have taken laws into their hands and continued to close down telecommunication sites".

He stated: "The association has decided to, henceforth, not restore services in states that close down our sites without a court order.

"If that continues, as an industry, we will now decide to introduce discriminatory tariffs based on the revenue drive regime of the individual states. So if you are a state, you are hostile to service providers, your tax environment is hostile to people, your levies and charges are hostile to the people, we will not argue with the government as we are responsible corporate organizations. We are only going to adjust the meters and people who make calls from such states will pay more than other states.

"We have made representations at all levels including making a request that there should be classification of telecoms as a national security infrastructure.

"The laws of the land and the Telecoms Act say that before any offending site is closed, there must be reasons, and a court order and a notification to the subscribers that such a disruption of services will happen. Today, state governments do not follow these rules. They just close down sites in the name that we have not paid this or that."

Adebayo, who is the proprietor of Ilorin-based Royal 95.1 FM, added that "today's atmosphere for doing business is not friendly to any investor in this country. If we are talking about employment and non-availability of employment, it is because the climate for people to invest is not there".

He continued: "We had investment in the north-central part of the country and we employed there 2,000 people; the climate became unfriendly and we had to close down the business. The issue of disparity in wages and welfare was not the point. The point is that there was a political interference. At the end of the day it charged up the atmosphere as people saw us as their enemies. They began to threaten us that they would bomb our centre. That is why l closed shop and went home. The 2,000 workers are back in the unemployment market.

"What I'm saying is that there must be a distinction between businesses and political offices. Political officeholders must not come and think they have a role to play in how private businesses are run."

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