3 January 2013

Nigeria: Growing Concerns Mount Over Right of Way

Telecoms operating companies appear not to be the only ones suffering from the effect of 'right of way' syndrome, as cable operators have equally called on the Federal Government to expedite action on the matter.

Main One Cable Company, one of the operators of fibre optic cable, also known as submarine cable, lamented a situation where there were lots of bandwidth capacities at the shores of the country, from the three cable operators in the country, yet the cost of 'right of way' imposed by various tiers of governments across the country, is adversely affecting its rollout.

Chief Executive Officer of Main One Cable, Mrs. Funke Opeke, told THISDAY that apart from the various levies imposed on right of way' by government, "it takes endless time to get approval from government before cables are laid underground."

She insisted that such delay is affecting the fast rollout of broadband services in the country.

According to her, "operators are willing to take broadband services to the hinterland for the middle mile and last mile connectivity, but the issue of cost emanating from government and its agencies, coupled with delay of bottleneck bureaucracy in the process of getting approval, are factors that are discouraging operators that are willing to rollout services, and as such foot-dragging the rollout of broadband capacities across the country."

Telecoms operating companies have cried out severally over the unnecessary imposition of levies on 'right of way' by the Federal, State and Local Government officials and their agencies, whom they said, take delight in slamming outrageous fees on specific distances sought by telecoms operators to dig and lay their cables.

She however said that the Federal Government had shown some concern over the matter and had called for a meeting between the Ministry of Communications Technology and the Ministry of Environment, to find a lasting solution to the matter. "Meeting was held in December 2012 and the next meeting is fixed for February, 2013, and I want to believe that work is in progress on the issue of 'right of way,' Opeke said.

She explained that the cost of delivering broadband services remained high and that government should not add to it through its imposition of levies on 'right of way.'

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), last year, inaugurated a committee of Industry Working Group (IWG) to address issues of multiple taxes in the telecoms sector, 'right of way' inclusive.

Inaugurating the committee in Lagos, Executive Commissioner of NCC in charge of Stakeholders' Management, Mr. Okey Itanyi, spelt out their mandate and terms of reference, and charged them to carry out their duties with high level of commitment.

The committee was mandated to engage with relevant government agencies to address the issue of multiple taxes imposed on telecoms operators across the country, but since its inauguration, its impact has not been felt.

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