By Ismaheel Ojo
Nigerian telecom operators under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria has threatened to increase the tariff chargeable for calls originating and terminating from networks in some states.
The affected include Ogun, Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Osun and Kaduna. Alton said this was due to arbitrary closure of telecoms sites and actions of governments impacting on telecoms operations.
The Chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo, made this known in Lagos at the weekend during a news briefing on: â€œState of the Telecoms Industry.â€
According to Adebayo, service providers continue to record cases of arbitrary site closure in many states of the federation, adding the association was very concerned about the recurring cases of telecoms sites closure by government agents in some states.
He said: â€œThis is in an attempt to force operators to pay local taxes and levies, some of which are multiple in nature and most of which are only aimed toward telecoms operators.
â€œWhat has telecoms operations got to do with â€˜Eco Tax for gaseous emission and gaseous emission, when we do not have moving machinery and production lines? What has telecom service got to do with sewage, sanitation and public convenience levy, when we are not hotel and bar operators?
â€œWhat has telecoms services got to do with sanitation and refuse effluent tax, when we donâ€™t operate fast food centres? How can a base stations situated in a farmland be regarded as business premises and therefore liable to business premises tenement rate payment?â€ he queried.
Adebayo said the rate charged per base station in the urban areas was different from the rate applied for residential and commercial buildings when the infrastructure occupied the same land.
Â According to him, the operators have resolved that arbitrary sealing of their sites without following the guidelines clearly provided by the Nigerian Communications Commission and in line with best practices will no longer be tolerated.
Â He said: â€œAny state or local government authority that closes our sites, our members will not reopen such sites.
â€œWe will serve the necessary warnings and if such practices continue, we are then faced with two options.
â€œFirst is to pay the charges by such state Government and to increase the tariff chargeable for calls originating and terminating from networks in such states, with all the attendant service delivery issues.
â€œWhere such actions on the part of government continue, we shall then advice all our members, after due consultation with relevant authorities, because of the security and economic implications, to shut down the entire network in such state for one full day as a final warning to such state or local government area.
â€œEnough is enough.
â€œWe are considering very carefully the situation of site closure and harassment of our members in some states and we may begin anytime soon to have them feel the impact of their actions on telecoms operators if they do not desist from deliberate disruption of our operations.
â€œThese states are treating our industry as an extractive industry, imposing myriads of taxes on our members and closing down the Base Transceiver Station sites arbitrarily.â€
Adebayo said many sites in the listed states had been shut down by the respective government or about to be shut without due regard to the security and economic implications such action would have on the state.
Â The ALTON chairman said operators consider tax payment as a matter of patriotic duty, being one of the elements of good corporate governance.
Â He added that ALTON appreciated the fiscal pressure on Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the respective Federal, State and LGA, particularly in the face of dwindling federal allocation.
Â Adebayo, however, said taxes and levies should be broad-based and fairly distributed across all sectors of the economy as there was no justification for targeted and sometime very high taxes on telecom operations.
Â He said: â€œWe are calling for a cross-sector/multi-stakeholder approach to reduce growing burden of taxation on our industry. Telecom being in the exclusive list of federal taxes, there is a need to streamline all such taxes and levies, which should not be aimed mainly at telecoms infrastructure.â€