" ITREALMS: Telcos blame govt over unrestored roads ... As NATCOMS insists on N5 SMS

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Telcos blame govt over unrestored roads ... As NATCOMS insists on N5 SMS

Remmy Nweke

OPERATORS of telecommunications in the country have blamed the government and its agencies over unrestored roads initially excavated for laying of telecom infrastructure.

This development is coming as telecom consumer rights group, National Association of Telecommunication Consumers (NATCOMS), insisted on downward review of tariffs, asking for N5 Short Messaging Service (SMS).

Responding on behalf of operators to a question raised by the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, at the 30th Edition of Telecoms Consumer Parliament, the General Manager, VGC Communications, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, said that from all indications, operators who are required to lay telecom pipes in any state must have fulfilled its own obligation.

This obligation, he said, includes that they pay about N8,000 for a portion of road excavated to the state government and to the federal agencies respectively in most cases for the same purpose.

Unfortunately, he lamented, these roads are never fixed afterwards by the relevant government agencies.

He therefore, exonerated telecom operators from any unrestored roads, excavated due to installation of infrastructure in the country.

Explaining further, Mr. Adebayo said, telecos before excavating roads usually apply for ‘right of way’ from either federal or the state government departments.

In the approval given therein, he said, they are being charged for excavation, supervision and restoration of the road portion.

Mr. Adebayo also said, having paid for the restoration to the government, operators telcos cannot be held responsible for restoration of these roads.

He said that in most cases, state governments do not perform the function of supervision which they have collected money for thereby rendering them vulnerable to attacks by miscreants and some communities who do not understand the importance of what they are installing.

This, he said, has forced them to make arrangements for Police protection when they are laying their cables.

Further, he said, “If government doesn’t charge them for restoration and supervision, I think operators will like to undertake the responsibility of restoring the excavated roads.”

Corroborating Mr. Adebayo, the EVC advised government to only charge administrative fees only and get undertaking from operators to restore the excavated roads in the bid to lay relevant infrastructure for telecom.

He emphasised that government cannot restore roads because of bureaucratic process which he noted, delays restoration.

In a related development, NATCOMS has called on all the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) operators to review their tariffs downward in the spirit of the five years of GSM, due next month, August.

National president, NATCOMS, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, said in view of the fifth anniversary, subscribers are expecting that GSM operators reduce their cost of services, including the Value Added Services (VAS).

He said that there is no significant different in the cost of intra-network and inter-network calls, demanding, however that intra-network calls be reduced by 50 per cent.

NATCOMS also urged the operators to reduce off peak period, that is, calls between 7pm and 7am by 50 per cent, just as it lauded fixed wireless operators for initiating free weekend intra-network calls on their networks.

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