Telecom operators through The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) are threatening to shut down operational business in six states of the federation due to harassment by the states’ agents on their officials and facilities. This warning is coming as a result of alleged arbitrary taxes, incessant closure of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) sites and other interruptions, which has threatened the quality of telecommunications services in the country.
The ALTON Chairman, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, while addressing a press conference on Thursday in Lagos yesterday said Ogun, Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Osun and Kaduna states are treating telecoms industry as an extractive sector by imposing myriads of taxes on operators and closing down the BTS sites arbitrarily, not minding the security and economic implications. The Association said it might increase the tariff chargeable for calls originating and terminating from networks in some states.
Adebayo said the association was very concerned about the recurring cases of telecoms sites closure by government agents in some states as service providers continue to record cases of arbitrary site closure in many states of the federation. He said:
“This is in an attempt to force operators to pay local taxes and levies, some of which are multiple in nature and most of which are only aimed toward telecoms operators”.
“What has telecoms operations got to do with ‘Eco Tax for gaseous emission and gaseous emission, when we do not have moving machinery and production lines? What has telecom service got to do with sewage, sanitation and public convenience levy, when we are not hotel and bar operators? What has telecoms services got to do with sanitation and refuse effluent tax, when we don’t operate fast food centres? How can a base stations situated in a farmland be regarded as business premises and therefore liable to business premises tenement rate payment?”…he remarked.
Adebayo lamented that the rate charged per base station in the urban areas was different from the rate applied for residential and commercial buildings when the infrastructure occupied the same land, the operators have resolved that arbitrary sealing of their sites without following the guidelines clearly provided by the Nigerian Communications Commission and in line with best practices will no longer be tolerated.
“Any state or local government authority that closes our sites, our members will not reopen such sites. We will serve the necessary warnings and if such practices continue, we are then faced with two options. First is to pay the charges by such state Government and to increase the tariff chargeable for calls originating and terminating from networks in such states, with all the attendant service delivery issues.
“Where such actions on the part of government continue, we shall then advice all our members, after due consultation with relevant authorities, because of the security and economic implications, to shut down the entire network in such state for one full day as a final warning to such state or local government area, enough is enough”. We are considering very carefully the situation of site closure and harassment of our members in some states and we may begin anytime soon to have them feel the impact of their actions on telecoms operators if they do not desist from deliberate disruption of our operations.”
The ALTON chairman said operators consider tax payment as a matter of patriotic duty, being one of the elements of good corporate governance, adding that ALTON appreciated the fiscal pressure on Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the respective Federal, State and LGA, particularly in the face of dwindling federal allocation.
Adebayo, however, said taxes and levies should be broad-based and fairly distributed across all sectors of the economy as there was no justification for targeted and sometime very high taxes on telecom operations.
“We are calling for a cross-sector/multi-stakeholder approach to reduce growing burden of taxation on our industry. Telecom being in the exclusive list of federal taxes, there is a need to streamline all such taxes and levies, which should not be aimed mainly at telecoms infrastructure,” he said.
A BTS is a piece of equipment that facilitates wireless communication between user equipment (UE) and a network. UEs are devices like mobile phones (handsets), WLL phones, and computers with wireless Internet connectivity.