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Kogi: Telecoms infrastructure & politics of IGR - ITREALMS

Features@TREALMS ... making leadership SENSE with digital news!

Given the implication of lingering harassment of telecom operators and abduction of their employees for ransom in Kogi State under the watch of a presidential aspirant, Gov. Yahaya Bello, in the name of increasing its Internally Generated Revenue; REMMY NWEKE like several stakeholders wondered the kind of presidency he got to offer Nigerians, if …. in the emerging digital era.

Preamble:

Since the beginning of this second quarter of 2022, one thing that kept the airwaves in Nigeria busy has been the declaration of presidential ambitions; from those who claim a lifetime ambition to those who stood like ‘rock’ after serving as governor of a state, yet to those who claimed affiliation with China, although, China was quick to deny sponsorship of any such.
But most controversially intriguing to some industry players especially the youth seem to be that of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, whose posters littered the social media space and some parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja with the former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode as vice president.

On sighting the Gov. Bello’s poster, what came to mind was the unexpected challenges of telecommunications operators are having in his state, Kogi to an extent some telecom employees are being singled out for indiscriminate abduction in the name of arrest because of their employer, telecom operators could not immediately agree to pay the ‘ransom’ for wanton closer of base stations in the state in the name of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), which the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) and other concerned stakeholders have persistently condemned over time.

For the records:

Kogi State harassment of telecoms operators in the country did not just start, but was largely evident in 2018 when ALTON exhausted all the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to raise an alarm over the looming nationwide telecom outage due to Yahaya Bello led state government had shut some 70 sites, likely to affect about 10 states due to complexity of the state in the country and mounting of relevant infrastructures.

According to ALTON chairman, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, the shutdown directly or indirectly affected some 10 states including Kogi and nine others including Nassarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, Niger States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, alleging that dispute arose from unusual taxes and levies demanded by the Kogi State Government through its Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, Kogi State Environmental Protection Board, championed by the Kogi State Internal Revenue Service (KIRS).

The affected States, he said are those sharing borders with Kogi State, lamenting that some critical telecommunications sites belonging to ALTON members have been closed and sealed up by Kogi State Government in an attempt to force increase in its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) collection.

ITREALMS also gathered that this followed an ex-parte court order obtained by the KIRS over unsubstantiated allegations that ALTON members are in default of tax payments to the state government and access to these critical telecom sites has been denied, leading to its members inability to refuel power generators in these sites, a situation which has led to outage of over 70 sites including hub sites across parts of Kogi State and environs.

Then, ALTON insisted, however, that “To the best of our knowledge, our members have settled all statutory levies and taxes due to the Kogi State Government and have taken necessary steps to comply with local laws that govern business activities within Kogi State.”

Fast-Forward:


And so, in the middle of March 2022, a similar concern was raised by ALTON on the need to call the Kogi State and FCT Administration, this time to order with the mobile operators giving the Federal Government (FG) a 7-day ultimatum, otherwise, they may not guarantee access to telecommunications services let alone the quality nationwide including the security agencies.

The Mobile Network Operators (MNO) under the aegis of ALTON revealed in a response to the latest sealing of some telecom infrastructure and abduction of employees of telecom operating companies in Kogi State, according to ALTON chairman, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo. He told ITREALMS penultimate Thursday at his office, expressed concerns about some recent developments in the telecom sector which necessitated the declaration of the 7-day ultimatum, and called for urgent national attention.

This, ITREALMS gathered included the seizure of cellular sites which could affect quality of service at FCT; high cost of energy which has paved the way for rising cost of service provision as well as safety of telecom workers as well as the shutting down of telecommunications facilities 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); which 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 have been denied.”

He pointed out that this issue is likely to lead to a total communications blackout in the entire Kogi State, parts of Abuja the Federal Capital Territory and possible impact on service availability in some parts of the following States: Nasarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, Niger States. These are States sharing borders with Kogi State.

Catastrophic experience looms:


The impact of these outages, he said, will gradually spread to the states mentioned above and if no action is taken within the next few days, a total outage of telecommunication sites in all these states will be catastrophically experienced. Stressing “We are very concerned that this indiscriminate action has the potential of further leading to a total telecommunications outage in Kogi State with neighboring states and parts of the Federal Capital Territory adversely impacted.” He insisted that its members have settled all statutory levies and taxes due to the Kogi State Government and have taken necessary steps to comply with local laws that govern business activities within Kogi State in addition to abduction of staff of telecom companies in the domain.

“As an industry, and as citizens of this country, we are concerned about the wider implications of the action of the KIRS. We hereby call on His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Vice President, who is driving the Presidential Enabling Business Council on Ease of doing business in Nigeria, and the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), to prevail on the FCDA authorities and Kogi State Governor His Excellency, Yahaya Bello (a Presidential Aspirant) to as a matter of urgency bring his authority to bear on KIRS so as to prevent a total blackout in communications services in FCT, Kogi, and by extension other neighboring States of the Federation which are now under threat due to the progressive degradation in quality of services outages happening to our members capacity extension and seizure of base stations in Kogi State,” ALTON chairman said.

Energy cost & security of telecoms workers:


On the increasing high cost of energy and security of telecom workers, ALTON decried the rising cost of diesel and its implications on the general high cost of business and they 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, underscoring that the state of security on the country is of unease, whilst commending all the security agencies for the work they do to keep the nation safe, maintaining that the impact of the general state of security on the country is that were 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.

They enjoined the government to do a lot more to keep the nation safe and keep telecom workers safe, ALTON said, reaffirmed commitment to work with the security agencies in order to support national security for which now needs protection from sub-national government and agencies to stop the interference of smooth operations of telecom services.

Who is Yahaya Bello?


For a better understanding of why some youth are bilingered by the contrary audacity of Yahaya Adoza Bello, who is a Nigerian businessman and politician; Born on 18 June 1975 with current age at the time of this write up is 46 years at Okene-Eba / Agassa/ Ahache and attended the Ahmadu Bello University where he passed out in 1999 and in less than a decade, precisely in 2016 he became governor of Kogi State till date. Yahaya is married to three wives namely Amina Oyiza Bello, Hafi Bello, and Rasheedat Bello.

Telecommunications infrastructure:


In a digital economy that is evolving, especially now that Nigeria has licensed the Fifth Generation (5G) network operators it is crucial to understand what is telecommunications infrastructure. According to experts at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), telecommunications infrastructure is the connection of networks to towns, cities, countries, and even overseas to other continents. These network connections could be hardwired or wireless and vary depending on the area whether rural, urban, a mixture, or extremely isolated. Telecommunication, they said, is the transmission of information by various types of technologies over wire, radio, optical, or other electromagnetic systems.

Nowadays, no development can comfortably take place without telecommunications, hence telecommunications technology is always expanding, and has paved the way for constant need for telecommunications infrastructure projects, such as progressing from 4G to 5G mobile networks, even as telecommunications infrastructure have been streamlined to include telephone wires and cables; Internet, satellites, mobile network towers, radio broadcasting systems to name but a few. So, forming an imperative basic physical and organizational structures and facilities needed for the operation of a society or enterprise in this digital era.

Whereas infrastructure has been defined by the Oxford Dictionary alongside Wikipedia, as the set of fundamental facilities and systems that support the sustainable functionality of households and firms; serving a country, city, or other areas, include the services and facilities necessary for its economy to function.

Submission:


Above all, the major concern of stakeholders who commented on the ransom taking Kogi State government under Bello’s watch was to describe it as embarrassing to the Nigerian youth, let alone those seeking political positions and presidential aspirants for that matter. They wondered what will become of Nigeria telecommunication industry if the like of Yahaya Bello finds their way to Aso Rock when he cannot conveniently drive positive and friendly environment based on digital economy at his state level.

Based on the concept of infrastructure development by Indeed.com, it is a proposed plan that focuses on the improvement and upkeep of services, facilities and systems already in place throughout a country, so as to improve communications equipment, transportation channels and electrical systems.

Often, infrastructure such as telecommunications-related attracts investors from both private and public companies to ensure a country operates efficiently and safely. Thereby, availing the citizens to have electricity, the ability to communicate using technology and easy ways of getting from one place to another to mention but a few.

Accordingly, shall we continue to play politics with our telecommunications infrastructure development in the name of seeking Internally Generated Revenue? Your guess is as good as mine which depends largely on how and who eventually is chosen as Nigerian next president in 2023. So, Nigerians shine your eyes by arming yourself with your Permanent Voters Card (PVC).

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