By Emma Okonji
Following the intervention by the federal government to assuage state governors and state agencies of government, over the hike on Right of Ways (RoW) charges for telecoms operations in their various states, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has pledged to discount RoW charges.
Sanwo-Olu, this week, in Lagos, said he would discount RoW charges in the state from between N1 to N145 per linear metre. The governor who spoke at a forum organised by Airtel in Lagos, said: “I will give Airtel and other telecoms operators a huge discount on the RoW charges in the state in order to do more in touching the lives of Nigerians.
“Telecoms operators should see Lagos State government as partner that they can believe and trust, with regards to telecoms development in the state.”
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, had on January 21, met with the Nigeria Governor’s Forum (NGF) in Abuja, led by its chairman, the Executive Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, to discuss possible ways of reducing the charges on RoW across all states of the country, in order to allow telecoms expansion in the states as well as unhindered penetration of broadband connectivity across the states.
The meeting, which was convened at the instance of the Minister, came on the heels of the recent hike in the charges of RoW by 14 states, including Lagos State, from between N3,000 to N6,000 per liner metre, whereas telecoms operators need thousands of kilometres right of Way to lay their fibre optic broadband cables for internet broadband connectivity.
Disturbed by the hike, which was likely to stall telecoms network expansion in the states, telecoms operators, through their umbrella body, the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), had written to the minister and had highlighted the consequences of the hike, which they said would impede telecoms growth and expansion across sates.
At the meeting with the minister, the state governors unanimously agreed to reverse the RoW charges from the planned N6,000 per linear metre, to N145 per linear metre.
Pantami used the occasion of the meeting to highlight the importance of broadband penetration to the nation and urged the state governors to adopt the 2013 resolutions reached by the National Economic Council (NEC), which agreed on a maximum RoW charge of N145.00 per linear meter of fibre.
Pantami, who also spoke at the Airtel Touching Lives Season 5 event, said: “I know the challenges facing telecoms operators in the country, one of which is the RoW charges by states and I have been talking with state governors on how to resolve some challenges.
“The federal government has been working hard to improve the security of telecoms facilities across the country, and has directed security agents to protect critical national infrastructure of telecoms companies across the country.
“On the 21st of January 2020, I had the privilege of addressing the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), through their Chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, where we had discussion on RoW challenges for telecoms operators.”
According to Pantami, the Chairman Governor’s Forum told me “I assure you that henceforth, the issue of RoW has been resolved and you do not need to come and discuss issues associated with the challenges of RoW anymore.”
He further said some governors who were present at the meeting, told him they were willing to give waiver to any telecoms operator that is willing to come to the state to lay fibre optic cable for broadband connectivity.
Before the close of the meeting, two governors indicated their interest to give waiver on RoW in their states. They promised not to go beyond the N145 per linear metre charge that was agreed during the National Economic Council Meeting in 2013, Pantami said.
He further explained that with the initiative, telecoms operators would be able to lay broadband cables for internet connectivity across states and also invest more in the states in the area of broadband penetration. He added that the issue of multiple taxation was also discussed to enable telecoms operators carryout their activities in states with less taxes from states agencies.