The Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has condemned the closure and sealing of telecom facilities by Kogi State government in an attempt to increase its internally generated revenue (IGR).
ALTON warns that the closure of telecom facilities in Kogi State as a result of disputes arising from unusual taxes and levies demanded by the state government may lead to total blackout of telecom services in the entire state and in surrounding states.
These taxes and levies are from the State Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, Kogi State Environmental Protection Board (KSEPB), championed by the Kogi State Internal Revenue Service (KIRS).
ALTON Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo, an engineer said the action has made it impossible for telecom operators 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.
“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,” Adebayo stated.
ALTON is worried that the action by KIRS will jeopardise communication services provided to security agencies such as the Nigeria Police Force; the Armed Forces; communication links to bank’s automatic teller machines (ATM); emergency and social services in Kogi and neighbouring states.
The outage currently being experienced is already affecting the ability of telecom operators to provide uninterrupted service delivery to commercial banks, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other critical agencies of government in the affected states.
The closure may likely 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 Nassarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, and Niger states.
The ALTON chairman affirmed that the closure followed an ex-parte court order obtained by the KIRS over unsubstantiated allegations that network operators are in default of tax payments to the state government and access to these critical telecom sites has been denied.
These charges are described as annual right of way renewal; social services contribution; employee economic development levy; mast site premises renewal and fire service yearly renewal.
Others are from the Kogi State Environmental Protection Board on payment of environmental levy; failure to submit an environmental impact assessment report; failure to register industry; failure to submit environmental audit report every two years; storage of petroleum products and radioactive materials without written permission from the KSEPB; failure to comply with setbacks to roads, power lines and rivers/streams; and dumping of toxic or hazardous substances or harmful waste without KSEPB approval.
ALTON therefore calls on the Federal Government to prevail on the Kogi State government to reign in on the matter to prevent a total blackout in communications services in Kogi, the affected states and Abuja.