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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Telecom: ALTON defeats Lagos over regulation

The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has defeated the Lagos State Government over a law suit instituted against the state government over intents to regulate telecommunications within its territory.

It would be recalled that state government had constituted an agency known as the Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance Regulatory Agency (LIMRA) through which it has been chasing operators around over the state levies and taxes, which included that of mast, towers and earthing and unearthing of cable and fibre optic equipment for telecommunication development.

Noteworthy is that most telecommunications operators in the country have their major infrastructure situated in Lagos State.

Delivering his judgement at the Federal High Court Ikoyi-Lagos on Friday, February 23, 2007, the presiding judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta, pointed out that he has the jurisdiction to hear the suit No: FHC/L/CS/517/2006; The Registered Trustees of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria & Six Ors v. Lagos State Government & 4 Ors.
Subsequently, Justice Auta stated on the objection to jurisdiction taken by the Lagos State Government, that he had jurisdiction to entertain the matter being a matter dealing with telecoms.

Also on the issues contained in the Originating Summons (OS), the Judge maintained that though the Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance Regulatory Agency (LIMRA) law looks innocent on the surface, its provisions obviously indicated regulation of telecoms and arrogation of the functions of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to itself.

Justice Auto went on to describe the Lagos State law as an attempt to regulate telecoms, noting, the danger is that if allowed similar legislations would definitely manifest in other states of the federation.

Although he noted that the driving force of the law seems to increase the revenue earnings of the state government with regard to the high charges in the law and the existence of other general laws on urban planning in Lagos State.

Justice Auto, therefore declared the law unconstitutional and granted a permanent injunction restraining the Lagos State Government and its agents from implementing the law.

However, reacting to the development, ALTON chairman, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo informed HANA that it is a welcome development and a victory for the industry and mostly the teeming subscribers of telcos nationwide.

“We’re delighted at the judgment,” he said, stressing it is an assurance that in the near future, the era of multiple taxation would be rested once and for all.

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