Over one year after the 36 state governors agreed to implement the unified rate of N145 per linear metre fee for Right of Way (RoW) in the laying of fibre optic cables for broadband deployment, 29 states have refused to implement the agreement, a situation that is slowing down the pace of broadband deployment and penetration in the country.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, who delivered the keynote address at a recent virtual stakeholders’ forum, organised by the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), said few days ago, the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, gave his consent in writing, to begin the implementation of the agreement in the state.
The recent development would take the total number of states implementing the new RoW fee to seven, which includes: Kaduna, Katsina, Plateau, Ekiti, Kwara, Anambra and Imo.
Worried about the development, Pantami appealed to the 29 state governors to consider implementing the new rate as earlier agreed, to enable Nigeria meet its 70 per cent broadband penetration target by 2025, as enshrined in the 2020-2025 Nigerian National Broadband Plan (NNBP).
According to the Minister, he had engaged with the members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), facilitated by its chairman, the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, on the 22nd of January 2020, and they agreed on the unified rate.
“At that meeting, I made a presentation on the benefits of broadband and requested the buy-in of the governors for the implementation of Broadband Plan and the Digital Economy Policy for a Digital Nigeria, and the governors unanimously agreed to adopt a maximum of N145/linear metre.
“Some of the governors have even waived this amount altogether. Many of the governors have begun full implementation and some have notified us in writing.
“We received reports that some states have introduced some extraneous charges that have increased the charges beyond the amount agreed. We are discussing with states involved in such cases, with a view to addressing the disparity,” Pantami said.
Before the January 2020 meeting there was disparity in the fees charged by state governors in their respective states, which range between N500 to N6,000 per linear metre.
Pantami’s keynote address, which focused on the importance of broadband in national development, also assessed the level of broadband penetration in the country and how to achieve the country’s broadband strategies, which seek to deliver data download speeds across Nigeria at a minimum of 25Mbps in urban areas, and 10Mbps in rural areas, with effective coverage available to at least 90 per cent of the population and penetration rate of 70 per cent by 2025 at a price not more than N390 per 1GB of data.
The NNBP also targets the deployment of nationwide fibre coverage to reach all state capitals, and provision of a point of presence in at least 90 per cent of local government headquarters. It also targets tertiary educational institutions, major hospitals in each state and fibre connectivity at statutory rates of N145/meter for Right of Way (RoW).
President of ATCON, Ikechukwu Nnamani, in his opening remarks, said: “The development of a solid digital economy rests on the foundation of a well distributed broadband infrastructure and involves the convergence of all technology types and classes of service.
“To this end we have brought together key industry leaders cutting across the nine sub-group of ATCON’s membership to discuss and strategise with the leadership of the public sector on the best ways to achieve an accelerated implementation of the Nigerian National Broadband Plan.”
Chairman of MTN Board of Directors, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, said the private sector must be actively engaged in achieving the Nigerian National Broadband Plan, because broadband is the driver of economic growth and development. He stressed the need for more telecoms infrastructure rollout by telecoms operators and the need for funding of broadband rollout in rural areas by government.