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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

MTN v. Abia State: ALTON backs operators to shut services @ unfriendly locations

Telecommunications operators in the country may not have taken the incursion of Abia State Infrastructure Development Fund (AIDF) laying low, as the service operators umbrella body has backed the MTN Nigeria Communications’ plans to shut its services in the south eastern states due to what the organization termed as criminal and unacceptable attitude of the agency.


ITRealms Online had reported that leading mobile operator in the country, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, is likely to shut its door against the people of the South-Eastern States, if the unremorseful Abia State government agency, AIDF continued in its bid to exploit the company in the name of levies that were not in the books statutorily.

Reacting to the development, telecommunications operators through its body, the Association of Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) revealed at the weekend that it’s in support of any operator to pull-out of any area if the government and people of such communities are not friendly and environment is not conducive for their kind of business.

Chairman of ALTON, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, told ITRealms Online while responding to questions at the weekend that the behavior and insistence of AIDF is unfortunate and undemocratic.

He lamented that in a normal clime, the people elected the populace cannot be the clog of progress, considering the development that telecommunications has brought to the economic well-being of Nigerians, especially those in the rural communities.

This attitude of AIDF, he said, is a disgrace to democracy and must be tamed before it gets out of hand.

According to him, the Abia State government and its agencies are missing the priority of providing affordable communication to the citizenry.

“It’s against normal life. It’s criminal and once we allow that to happen, it would replicate in other states. Therefore it remains criminal and not acceptable to us,” he said.

Adebayo also warned that this trend of harassing telecom operators and their employees by one state agency or another, would militate against expected growth in the ICT sector.

“We are at risk … We are worried and it would be very unfortunate if it’s allowed,” he lamented, saying that in some of the sites, they are hub-sites, which entails that they serve beyond their immediate environment to include other neighbouring states.

He further called on the government at all levels, be it federal, state and local governments to see telecommunications investment and operators  as service providers.

“Most government currently think that the higher taxes or levies from the Stated and Local government,” he said, alleging that bulk of the problems like this one between MTN and Abia State, begins when government and its agencies make demands that are out of the law guiding the industry.

Till date, he pointed out that operators still have to go to about 10 ministries to get right of way, a process which has continued to dwindle investment potentials.

Meanwhile, penultimate Wednesday, MTN management had taken a notice in some national dailies to warn of the impending shut down of its services in South East.

According to the notice entitled ‘Quality of Service in Abia State and its Environs: An Alert to MTN Customers in the Eastern Region’ the mobile operator decried the attitude of the Abia State government through one of its agencies.

MTN management noted that the notice has become imperative due to the challenges  the operator is  facing and at the same time endangering the lives of employees, hence they decided to alert customers.

“… For the attention of MTN customers in Abia State and neighbouring states in the South-East and South-south Regions,” part of the statement read.

MTN also said that as a customer-focused organization, that  they are duty bound to proactively inform our esteemed customers of any occurrence that may cause disruptions that impact the quality of telecommunications services in their areas.

“We wish to alert our customers that due to the actions of the Abia State Infrastructure Development Fund (IDF),” MTN said, alleging that the attitude of Abia IDF has caused the network operator of being unable to gain access to several of its sites in the state.

MTN, the statement added is unable to fuel or service these sites, a number of which are ‘hub’ sites providing service to other states in the Eastern part of the country.

“As such, a significant number of MTN customers outside Abia State will be similarly affected,” MTN said.

Further, MTN alleged that the Abia State Infrastructure Development Fund seeks to compel MTN to pay levies, the legality of which is being challenged in court by MTN.

“In spite of ongoing court processes, the Agency has employed a variety of tactics over the course of this year with increasing disruptive action over the past few days, which if unremedied will result in the shutdown of network services in Abia State, Rivers State and environs,” MTN said.

Stressing that they have had to take extra measures to protect employees in Abia State and surrounding States as a result of the actions of the Abia State Infrastructure Development Fund.

MTN, therefore assured that they would continue to engage with the relevant arms of government in the bid to resolve the issues in this regard.

“… And we earnestly seek the co-operation and understanding of our esteemed customers,” MTN pleaded.

Remmy Nweke

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

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