Nigeria: States Bow to Pressure, Reduce Row Charges for Telcos

24 January 2020

The governors of the 36 states of the federation have unanimously agreed to reverse the Right of Way (RoW) charges for telecoms facilities from the planned N6, 000 to N145 per linear metre.

The governors, who have been under intense pressure from the federal government and telecommunication companies, agreed to harmonise their charges with that of the federal government after a meeting on Wednesday night in Abuja with the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa. Pantami

The meeting was part of efforts to address the lingering issue of RoW charges in a bid to deepen broadband penetration in the country and promote a digital economy.

THISDAY had exclusively reported that agencies and ministries of no fewer than 14 states had increased RoW charges from the initial fee of between N300 to N500 per linear metre to between N3,000 and N6,000 per linear metre.

The RoW charge on federal roads is N145 per linear metre.

Some of the agencies and ministries include the Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance and Regulatory Agency (LASIMRA), State Information Technology Agency (SITA) of Ondo, Cross River State Infrastructure Safety and Regulatory Agency (CRISRA), Kogi State Environmental Protection Board and Kano State Urban Planning and Development Authority.

Others are: Kogi State Internal Revenue Service (KSIRS), Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Authority (KASUPDA), Osun State Ministry of Environment and Sanitation, Anambra State Internal Revenue Services, Enugu State Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, Adamawa State Ministry of Environment, Imo State Environmental Transformation Commission (Imo ENTRACO), Kebbi State Ministry of Environment and Solid Minerals and Gombe State Internal Revenue Board.

Some of the states have reportedly refused to collect the old rates for RoW and were no longer issuing RoW licences to telcos.

But the federal government condemned the hike, describing the action of the states as a disregard to the RoW Charge Agreement reached by the National Economic Council (NEC).

However, Wednesday's meeting, where the issue was resolved, was attended by state governors, under the auspices of the Nigerian Governors' Forum (NGF), chaired by Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.

Others in attendance were the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta; the Director-General of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mr. Kashifu Inuwa, and the Chairperson of the Presidential Committee on National Broadband Plan (2020-2025), Mrs. Funke Opeke.

The resolution followed a presentation made by the minister during the meeting, where he discussed the many benefits of broadband penetration, if telecoms operators were allowed to lay their broadband fibre optic cables in different states.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, and signed by the Technical Assistant on Information Technology to the minister, Dr. Femi Adeluyi, the minister noted that one of the key benefits is the rapid growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of any country that increases its broadband penetration.

He added: "He urged the state governors to adopt the 2013 resolutions reached by the National Economic Council (NEC), which agreed on a maximum RoW charge of N145.00 per linear meter of fibre.

"In response, the governors acknowledged the benefits of broadband penetration and the Chairman of the Governors' Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, stated that the minister should consider the matter resolved. There will no longer be any need to appeal to the governors on the issue of RoW.

"In addition to the discussion on the RoW, the minister also discussed the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS), which was unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 28, 2019. Pantami urged the state governors to key into the policy and strategy. He also informed them of the plan of the federal government to help the states with a Digital Economy Strategy, through Policy, Digital Skills and other areas of intervention."

Commending the governors' forum and its chairman for backing down, the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) Chairman, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, also hailed the minister for taking the initiative to meet with the governors on matters bordering on national economic development.

He said ALTON had in the wake of the planned increase in RoW charges across the country, had written the minister to seek his intervention to save the telecoms sector.

"By initiating the meeting with members of the Governor's Forum, the minister has demonstrated good leadership position for taking ownership of the challenges of the telecoms industry, and we commend him for that," Adebayo he stated.

He was hopeful that the decision reached on RoW would be unified among the 36 state governors and advised them to look more at the social and economic benefits of ubiquitous broadband penetration, than their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) from RoW charges.

He, however, said RoW charge was one of the multiple charges encountered by telecoms operators that were being imposed by state governments.

He condemned the use of local state taskforce in shutting down telecoms sites without recourse to the national implications of their actions, and advised state governors to allow telecoms operators to expand telecoms networks in their states without harassment.

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