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By Oluwaseun Ajayi

A national telecoms blackout is imminent, the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has warned.

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Only the quick intervention of the federal government can avert it, the umbrella body for network operators alerted in Lagos this week at a media interaction.

ALTON in its advisory stance, said the central government must:

  1. End the illegal seizure of cellular sites in “Kogi state because of disputes arising from unusual taxes and levies demanded by the Kogi state government through the Kogi State Internal Revenue Service (KIRS);
  2. address concerns about degrading quality of services at the FCT;
  3. address high cost of energy rising cost of service provision; and
  4. ensure safety of telecom workers.”

The federal government’s quick intervention will save the nation from a national embarrassment., ALTON’s, Chairman Gbenga Adebayo, told the media.

Kogi state illegal shut down of cell sites 

He said operators “have not been fairly treated by the Kogi State Government for couple of weeks and that the Kogi State government has subsequently harassed and arrested any telecom worker they sight as a result of the dispute arising from unusual taxes and levies demanded by the Kogi state government through the Kogi State Internal Revenue Service (KIRS).”

He added:  “We wish to state that the shutting down of cellular sites in Kogi State is a not a good move and it harassment towards our workers is uncalled for. The Kogi state recent action is a war against telecom services, which is presently a critical service in terms of security and contribution to the economy.”

Adebayo said the federal government has obligation to “call the Kogi state government to order to avoid total communications blackout in the entire Kogi state, and some other neighboring states like Nassarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara and Niger.

He revealed that network operators have not being able to refuel their power generators nor providing any support or maintenance services in these sites, a situation which has currently resulted in the outage of over 70 sites including hub sites across parts of Kogi state.

“We want to be clear and state categorically that the action by Kogi will not only jeopardize communication services provided by our members to the Nigerian subscribers but will have the greater effect of negatively impacting the use of critical communication infrastructure by our National and State security agencies in the discharge of their duties to provide necessary security for the country, especially in these trying times, when communication across states should be uninterrupted and seamless,” Adebayo warned.

Adding: “The action by KIRS was hinged on an ex-parte court order obtained by the KIRS over unsubstantiated allegations that our members are in default of tax payments to the state government (which is not the truth) and access to these critical telecom sites has been denied.”

War against telecoms

Also,  according to ALTON, the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), office of the Director for Signage & Advertisement has refused to grant telecommunication service providers permit to build infrastructure in the FCT. 

“This is affecting the quality of services around FCT and Abuja.  The problem is created by the governing authority in the FCT. Telecommunications services drive on the terrestrial infrastructure.  We hereby call on the Federal Executive Council  (FEC) to prevail on the FCDA in granting approval/permit to our members to deploy infrastructure.”

High cost of energy and security of telecom workers

According to ALTON,  high cost of diesel and insecurity has heightened the challenges of providing telecom services in Nigeria.

ALTON stated: “We are very concerned about the rising cost of diesel and its implications on the general high cost of business. We are concerned that unless there is an intervention to safe this sector, operators will have no choice than to begin a process of price review.

“The state of security on our country is of concern, whole we commend all our security agencies for the work they do to keep us all safe, the impact of the general state of security on the country is that we are not able to provide 24/7 support in certain areas as it is unsafe to send out service personnel to some parts of the country and to other at certain times of the day.

“We join in the call to government to do a lot more to keep the nation safe and keep our worker safe.

“We reaffirm our commitment work working with the security agencies in order the necessary support for national security for which we now need protection from sub-national government and agencies to stop the interference of smooth operations of telecom services.”

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