Telecoms operators in the country have called on state governments across the country to stop delaying the approval of Right of Way (RoW), saying it is impacting negatively on the deployment of telecoms infrastructure like fibre optic cables. The operators also called for the removal of charges by states on ROW.
According to them, the removal of the charges would enhance fast rollout of telecoms facilities in various states, which would eventually lead to improved service quality in the telecoms sector.
Different agencies of state governments have continually imposed different charges for the approval of ROW, a situation that has stalled the fast rollout of broadband infrastructure, hitherto designed to boost internet connectivity, voice call, smart city development and digital transformation across the country.
Most government agencies go as far as halting telecoms operations at sites, seizing telecoms equipment, harassing telecoms workers on sites and shutting down telecoms operations in some areas, should there be any delay in the payment of RoW charges, which has forced telecoms operators to suspend work on rollout of telecoms services at sites, and some have even returned their Infrastructure Company (InfraCo) licence.
Disturbed by the situation, which remained unabated despite several meetings held between telecoms operators and state governments at the instance of the telecoms industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), some telecoms operators who spoke at a panel discussion during the NigeriaCom event, which held in Lagos recently, said there was need for state governments to completely eradicate the collection of charges on RoW.
Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, assured state governments that if RoW charges were removed, it would not only improve on telecoms services, but would also create job opportunities and boost Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of states.
President of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Olusola Teniola, said there was need for strong collaboration between telecoms operators and state governments, to enable state governments understand the vision of telecoms operators operating in their states, and to seek new and better ways to generate income outside RoW charges.
General Manager, Swift Networks, Mr. Nkem Emelieze, lamented that of the issues causing slow penetration of broadband across Nigeria, is RoW charges. He expressed his dissatisfaction over the poor state of telecoms infrastructure in the country, a situation he said, compelled telecoms companies to invest in the rollout of telecoms infrastructure.
According to him, t the government failed in their responsibility to provide telecoms infrastructure, yet the same government will still want to task operators on RoW.
While presenting his keynote address at the NigeriaCom event, the Chairman, NCC Board of Commissioners, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, said there was need for multi stakeholder commitment which includes agencies of government, the legislature and judiciary to come together and draw up polices to address challenges of ICT that stifle economic growth in Nigeria.