Telcos Swindle RoW Fees, Install Cables in Gutters, Trees

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  • It is Technically Impossible, Say Operators

Emma Okonji

The Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance and Regulatory Agency (LSIMRA) has accused telecoms operators in Lagos of swindling payment of fees for Right of Way (RoW), by installing fibre optic cables in gutters and trees in Lagos, thereby depriving the Lagos State government of huge revenue accruable from granting approval for right of way.

LASIMRA said it became aware of the situation, when it received a report from Critical Infrastructure Services Limited that conducted a Utility Network Audit that covers the underground utilities network within the geographical boundaries of Lagos State.

But in a swift reaction, telecoms operators under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) dismissed the claim as laughable, insisting that no telecoms operator that is business minded, would install telecom cables in drainages.

Chairman of ALTON, Gbenga Adebayo told THISDAY that it is ‘technically impossible’ for any operator to install fibre optic cables in gutters and drainages where water flows, when such cables are not submarine cables. According to him, “It is only submarine cables that are specially designed to remain in water, could be installed in drainages where water flows. Fibre optic cables that transmit telecoms data and signals cannot survive in water, and therefore cannot be installed in drainages.”

No operator that wants to do sustainable business in Lagos, will install cables in gutters, all in the name of avoiding payment of RoW fees, Adebayo added.

Giving clarification on the allegation that telecoms operators now hang cables on trees in Lagos, Adebayo said what LAIMSRA saw, were cables dug out from the ground and hung on trees by road construction companies in an attempt to avoid damaging underground cables during road construction.

However, the Chief Executive Officer of Critical Infrastructure Services Ltd, Mr. Chukwudi Obike Okpara, whose company was contracted by LASIMRA to conduct the audit, said in the process of preparing the “As Built Database” of all underground facilities in Lagos, the Company found that several telecoms service providers have had a free ride in Lagos and were avoided the payment of right of way to LASIMRA by installing their cables in gutters and drains.

Okpara listed the areas where cables were indiscriminately installed in drainages and on tress to include key areas such as, Saka Tinubu Street; Kofo Aboyimi Street; Saka Tinubu/Akin Adesola Street junction; Ozumba Obamdiwe Street and junction and Ajose Adeogun Street, all in Victoria Island of Lagos.

He advised telecoms service providers to ensure they provide quality services to customers by disconnecting those cables in gutters, drains and on trees. He said operators should follow due process by paying LASIMRA for right of way, and installing their cables according to International Telecommunication Union (ITU) standards. He also advised the operators to utilise duct spaces provided by Lagos State in several parts of the state to ensure that residents enjoy quality telecom services.

According to Okpara, “This is critical because it has been discovered that the poor quality of service experienced by telecoms subscribers is due to wrong installation of telecoms network cables in gutters and on trees.”

He said such installations do not comply with the global standards set by ITU, adding that Nigeria has experienced tremendous growth in the numbers of telecom subscribers, but that this has not been matched by the provision of adequate internationally accepted networks.
There will constant drop calls and slow internet service, if key network cables remain in gutters, drains and on trees, Okpara said.

“The cables which were discovered on trees and in gutters should not be there. Telecoms service providers have a responsibility to their customers and the residents of Lagos State to obtain right of way from LASIMRA, remove their cables on trees and in gutters and install them properly,” Okpara added.

Dismissing the claims as false, Adebayo challenged LASIMRA to evacuate such cables, seize them, and call the attention of those operators that could have such cables, instead of making a public show in the media.