Telecom Operators Bemoan Tough Business Environment

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Emma Okonji

Telecommunications operators (Telcos) have raised the alarm that the harsh business environment is adversely affecting their operations, pointing out that several of them may soon go out of business except urgent steps are taken to remedy the situation.

They have therefore urged the federal government and the telecoms regulatory body, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to quickly come to their rescue.

Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, who raised the alarm, said: “The operators are currently operating on a very slim revenue margin and are running at huge losses that are gradually threatening business continuity in the telecoms sector, owing to the harsh business environment, which has made the ease of doing telecoms business a lot more difficult.”

He listed some of the challenges to include willful destruction of telecoms facilities, especially in the North-east; theft of batteries at telecoms base stations; extortion and intimidation of telecoms site engineers by social miscreants; destruction of underground optic fibre cables during road construction, leading to disconnection of telecoms services and resulting in poor telecoms services; difficulties in obtaining right of ways (RoWs), which has slowed down network expansion; and multiple taxation, as well as incessant closure of telecoms base stations by government officials, among others.

According to Adebayo, all these put together, have created harsh business environment for the operators and have cut down on their revenue generation, thus compelling them to operate at huge losses.

A management staff of one of the telecoms operators, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told THISDAY that the willful destruction of telecoms facilities in the North-east and other parts of the country has affected the financial strength of all telecoms operators.

According to him, no telecoms operator currently has good financial standing as a result of the tough business environment they are facing, except for MTN that is still managing to survive as result of its massive network and huge subscriber number, even though it is still feeling the pains of the ugly situation.

Adebayo called on the federal government to quickly declare telecoms facilities as critical national infrastructure in order to save the remaining facilities from being vandalised.

He expressed dissatisfaction over the slow legislation on the bill before the National Assembly members seeking the declaration of telecoms infrastructure as national critical infrastructure and urged President Muhammadu Buhari to view the bill as an executive order and make executive pronouncement on it before the lawmakers will legislate on it, to avoid further delay.

Adebayo who also made reference to the Cybercrime Act that was passed into law in 2015 by former President Goodluck Jonathan, called on the law enforcement agents to move fast in implementing the Cybercrime Act, especially in the areas that have to do with protection of telecoms facilities.