Osinbajo Reopens Talks with State Governors on Right of Way

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Emma Okonji

Following discussions between the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the state governors about the issue on Right of Way (RoW) that is yet to yield any meaningful result, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has decided to revisit the issue in order to put a lasting solution to it.

Osinbajo, it was gathered, recently met with the state governors to discuss the challenges about the delay in state government’s approval on RoW.

The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danabatta, who made the disclosure during the visit of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) to NCC in Abuja recently, said the discussion between Osinbajo and the state governors was successful.

He said the key area of contention had been addressed and that telecoms operators would soon embark on massive rollout of metropolitan fibre optic broadband cables within cities, to boost broadband penetration.
Before now, most state governments had denied telecoms operators the approval on RoW that will enable them dig up the earth to lay broadband cables.

The refusal to approve RoW in some states and the delay in approval in some other states, had made telecoms operators to suspend work on network rollout and expansion, which impacted negatively on telecoms growth.
The bone of contention was that aside the federal government’s regulation of the telecoms sector, through the NCC, the state governments said they also have the right to regulate telecoms activities in their various states, thus imposing levies on operators before approval is given to them on RoW.

The telecoms operators saw the state regulation as duplication of government roles, and an avenue of extortion, since they are compelled to pay the same levy to state governments after paying such levy to the federal government, amounting to payment of multiple levies in a country where the revenue of operators is depleting fast by the day, owing to several variables.

Danbatta who briefed the ATCON executive members, led by their president, Mr. Olusola Teniola, on the outcome of the meeting between Osinbajo and the state governors, said the state governors agreed to approve RoW for telecoms operators, without further delay and that four telecoms operators who were licensed as Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) by the NCC to provide broadband infrastructure in different regions of the country, have been granted state approval to lay fibre optic cables for broadband rollout.

“It appears there is a solution in sight on RoW as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had a meeting with Nigeria Governors Forum and he used the opportunity to make a presentation to them in respect of Right of Way and the governors appeared to buy into the initiative of laying fibre, which will cover up to 18000 km in Nigeria and the initiative will be solely driven by the Vice President and with this initiative, solutions shall be proffered to the challenges caused by Right of Ways and the 30 per cent broadband penetration set target will soon be met and surpassed,” Danbatta told Teniola and his visiting team.

Danbatta who spoke about some of the benefits that come with high broadband penetration, emphasised the need for quality critical infrastructure.

He said high broadband penetration would drive the education sector, health sector, financial sector, transportation sector and agricultural sector.

Teniola said ATCON would support the broadband penetration initiative of NCC, through its proposed Broadband and Technology Investment Forum that seeks to accelerate investments in the telecoms industry and to boost job creation among youths.