Nigeria: NCC Moves to Enlighten State Govts On Economic Benefits of Telecoms Infrasatructure

22 April 2021

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has been charged to enlighten state governments nationwide on the role of telecommunications as a catalyst for economic development.

The charged which came from Industry Working Group (IWG) on Multiple Taxation/Regulation, stated that it was vital that state governments and their agencies are properly enlightened to avoid the incessant closure of telecommunications infrastructure by agencies of state government seeking ti increase their internally generated revenue (IGR).

The IWG on Multiple Taxation/Regulation meets every quarter of the year. However, due to limitations posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the IWG was only able to meet once in 2020 but was able to resolve accumulated issues of multiple taxation/regulation.

The Industry Working Group noted that one of the key successes recorded by it was the inclusion of Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance Regulatory Agency (LASIMRA) as a member of the IWG.

It stated that the Commission received several correspondences from LASIRMA in 2020 bothering on the integrity of mast and tower, collapsed masts and the need to monitor the installation and maintenance of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) sites in Lagos State.

"Stakeholder's engagement is one of the Commission's strategic pillars for continued success and it informed the decision to invite the management of LASIMRA to the IWG meeting to discuss its concerns and areas of possible collaboration.

"The meeting noted that it is disheartening that nearly three decades after the deregulation of the telecommunication sector in Nigeria, the problem of multiple taxation and regulation still persist. The meeting therefore requested the Commission to intensify its collaborative efforts with state governments to address the issues giving the benefits of telecommunications as a catalyst for economic development and growth," the IWG added.

In his goodwill message recently at the Anambra State Broadband Infrastructure Development Stakeholders Forum in Awka, the state capital, the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission, Professor Umar Danbatta stated that, "The Commission has always encouraged governments to include Telecommunications infrastructure like ducts and others as they plan their cities and towns.

"A well planned city is one of the keys to the Digital Economy, a planned city anticipates future development, opens new revenue streams for government and safeguards roads, water pipes, bridges and other infrastructure from unnecessary destruction and re-adjustments to fit-in additional infrastructure in the future.

He stated that Right-of-Way (RoW) charges, is a major limiting factor to provision of broadband services in Nigeria, as it slows down network deployment with the cost of the limited capacities ultimately passed to the subscribers. Anambra state is one of the two states that have not just reduced the Right of Way charges offered to operators, but waived it completely.

Result of study has shown that for every 10 percent increase in Broadband penetration, there is a corresponding 1.38 per cent increase in gross domestic product (GDP)). This RoW waiver, will also make Anambra State more attractive to network operators and attract investment in the infrastructure needed to support economic wellbeing of your Excellency's economic jurisdiction.

He further noted that, "the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) and the Commission's Management led by my humble self are committed to keep dialoguing with the federal and state governments to lower the charges to N145 per linear meter earlier agreed or waive the charges entirely as we know that this is the path to progress in our drive for broadband propelling rapid roll-out of services and better the livelihood of Nigerians through the myriads of services that come with the Digital Economy where Fibre Infrastructure play a major role."

The Nigerian telecoms sector has continued to experience growth in diverse areas like BTS and fibre optic deployment, including broadband penetration that has reached 45.07 per cent penetration as at November 2020, up from six per cent in 2015.

Nigeria has 54,725km fibre optic coverage, with a target to deploy 120,000km across the country by 2025. The third generation (3G) and fourth generation (4G) BTS deployment has reached 53,460, up from its initial 30,000 in 2020, while fibre optic transmission cables expanded from 47,000km to 54,725km in the last five years.

Targets for fibre optic deployment and broadband penetration as enshrined in the 2020-2025 National Broadband Plan, are 120,000km and 70 per cent respectively, while analysts have projected that Nigeria would need up to 150,000 BTS, spread across the country, that would enable telecoms service providers, offer quality service to telecoms subscribers.

NCC Confiscates Illegal SIM Cards, Arrests Dealers

The Nigerian Communications Commission in its report Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Report for the fourth quarter 2020 recently released on its website, said it carried out series of enforcement actions against the open sale of fraudulently registered SIMs in Kano, Gombe, Borno and Sokoto States respectively.

According to the Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement team, a large number of fraudulently registered SIMs and SIM registration equipment were confiscated, the suspects arrested and handed over to the NSCDC for prosecution.

The team stated in the report that in Borno State, 22 persons were arrested for possession and sale of fraudulently registered SIM cards. Three thousand SIM cards were seized, out of which 105 were found to be fraudulently registered.

According to the Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement team's report, "The Commission observed a high prevalence of fraudulently registered SIMs in Sokoto State which was attributed to the failure of service providers to put effective control systems in place.

"Twenty persons were arrested in Sokoto North and Sokoto South Local Government Areas. A large number of SIMs of the various mobile networks were confiscated and five registration machines and a Computer Laptop were also confiscated.

In a related development, Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement team stated that in Q4 2019 SIM Replacement Audit, all the four Mobile Network Operators, MTN, Airtel, Globacom and 9Mobile (EMTS) were found to be in absolute breach of the SIM Replacement Guidelines at the last SIM Replacement Audit Exercise conducted by the Commission.

"A Notice of Sanction was consequently issued to the respective MNOs to show cause why appropriate sanctions should not be imposed for the violation. The four (4) MNOs were sanctioned for the violation of SIM Replacement Guidelines as follows: Airtel - N3,250,000.00 (in respect of 13 infractions); EMTS - Issued strong warning due to the number of infractions; Globacom - N39,250,000.00 (in respect of 37 infractions); and MTN - N36,000,000.00 (in respect of the 24 infractions).

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