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Telecom stakeholders finger state governments as obstacle to FG’s 90,000km fibre project 

Stakeholders in the telecommunications industry have said the Federal Government’s plan to deploy 90,000 kilometers of fibre optic cables across the country will face several obstacles, especially from state governments, that might truncate the project.  

According to them, without addressing the current issue of Right of Way charges, multiple taxation, and levies, which are under the control of state governments, the project which is to be implemented through a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) would be an exercise in futility.  

The stakeholders, who spoke during the Sixth Edition of the Policy Implementation Assisted Forum (PIAFO) in Lagos on Wednesday, cited the botched InfraCo project initiated by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) some years ago as an example of how the new initiative could end.  

Addressing the obstacles 

Presenting a paper on the topic, ‘Harmonizing Nigeria’s Fibre Deployment Strategies for Effective Implementation’ Executive Director of Broadbased Communications, Mr. Chidi Ibisi, while the government’s SPV initiative is a good plan that could help the country bridge its current digital infrastructure gap, the government would need to address current challenges.  

“The issues of high cost of Right of Way (RoW), destruction of fiber by road construction companies and vandals all need to be addressed for this new SPV initiative to be successful,” he said.  

Highlighting some of the challenges telecom operators face when deploying infrastructure, the Group Chief Operating Officer of WTES Projects Limited, Mr. Chidi Ajuzie, said the biggest challenge to fibre cable laying in Nigeria is the informal RoW by hoodlums in states.  

“For states, a formal right of way is set and some states are adopting it but the informal side of the right of way is where the complexity has come today.  

“If I’m trying to lay fibre in some communities here in Lagos, the first thing that happens is the so-called land owners (omo onile) come out and a different set of people will keep coming from one street to another and they charge you. How do we achieve adequate broadband infrastructure in this kind of situation?” he said.  

Role of state governments 

According to the Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, for the 90,000 kilimeters fibre project to succeed, the state governments have to take ownership. 

“For the project to succeed, I think the governments at sub-nationals should take ownership. This issue of state governments seeing right of way as IGR should be a thing of the past. We can’t talk about the digital economy on one side and the government is seeing those who provide the services as sources of revenue.  

“The government has always come up with good policies, but the implantation, particularly when they are tested far afield is the biggest problem. Governors will go to Abuja and say ‘in my state, I will give right of way free of charge.’  

“When you go to such state, they may give you right of way for zero or one Naira, but they will give you developmental levy, education levy, state impact levy, ecosystem levy. When you add all of these together, it is more than the right of way charges. So, who is playing who?” he said. 

Earlier in his opening address, the convener of PIAFo, Mr. Omobayo Azeez, said the conference was to create a midpoint dialogue platform for digital economy stakeholders across both the public and private divides to brainstorm, exchange perspectives, clear grey areas, harmonize thoughts and create a sense of collective responsibility towards accelerating our collective prosperity through technical efficiency. 

What you should know 

The Federal Government recently launched a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for the delivery of an additional 90,000km of fibre optic cable to complement existing connectivity for universal access to the internet across Nigeria. 

According to the Minister of Communications, Innovation, and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, working with partners and stakeholders from the government and private sector, the SPV would build the additional fibre optic coverage required to take Nigeria’s connectivity backbone to a minimum of 125,000km, from the current coverage of about 35,000km.  


Source: Naijaonpoint.com.

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