" ITREALMS: Telecom is not a cash cow – Adebayo

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Telecom is not a cash cow – Adebayo

CHAIRMAN, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, has urged governments at all levels to change their views about telecommunications operators in a developing economy like Nigeria, because it is not a cash cow.

Speaking to newsmen on the quarterly briefing of ALTON, Mr. Adebayo decried a situation that state and local government authorities see the telecom industry and specifically the operators as where they could easily make ‘revenue’.

This attitude, he said, ought to change because “telecom is not a cash cow” where any one who cares could just come and take his or her own pound of flesh.

Instead, he said, state and local government authorities and Abuja Municipal authority precisely, should see themselves as stakeholders in growing the industry, by providing security to telecoms infrastructure.

“The economic implications of a state without telecom service can only be imagined,” he said, stressing that it would be worst than when the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) held forte as the industry monopoly.

Although he pointed out that challenges facing telecom operators as in multiple taxation at various tiers of the government, may have began long ago, but warned that if allowed to continue it could retard the progress made in the last seven years following the advent of Global System for Mobile communications (GSM).

“It might erode the gains of the development of telecoms in Nigeria,” he said, stressing that networks operating cost has consistently been on the increase.

He also warned that the end result of increased operating cost could lead to increase in tariffs, “if the current levies being demanded by some states and local government authorities are allowed,” to go unchecked.

He singled out the situation with the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), describing it as “quite worrisome.”

Mr. Adebayo pointed out that since February 2006, FCDA has refused to approve any new application to build new network sites in the FCT, alleging that it is an attempt to force its membership into a co-location agreement by a third party who is not a licensed telecom operator.

He recalled that on Friday, December 8, 2006, FCTA began demolition of telecommunications infrastructure such as BTS of private telephone operators, in the bid to achieve its demand notice served on telcos through the Abuja Metropolitan Management Agency (AMMA) in February 2006.

“AMMA on behalf of the FCTA demanded several billions of Naira from operators for installing and operating telecommunications facilities in FCT,” he declared.

He said, apart from the fact that FCTA appointed a private concern in a non-transparent manner to oversee that its demands were met, it was without reference to the industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Mr. Adebayo insisted that the plan was to coerce ALTON members into co-location plans that would not be commercially viable and technologically feasible.

“In total disregard to the industry driven co-location initiative and guidelines issued by NCC,” he said.

Just as he called on FCTA to allow operators to reconstruct perimeter fences of the demolished sites to prevent vandalisation, theft of diesel and protect members of the public especially children from exposed telecommunications facilities.

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