BY GLORIA USMAN, ABUJA – Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami says any attempt by state governments to increase the cost of telecommunications Right of Way (RoW) will negate Federal Government’s efforts at bringing down the cost of telecoms services in the country

Pantami therefore directed telecommunications operators in the country to keep low charges in the cost of Right of Way (RoW) imposed by state governments.

The Minister, who spoke at a virtual national technical conference on Right of Way (RoW) and Site Build Permitting organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in collaboration with the UK Government’s Prosperity Fund’s Digital Access Programme, assured that the federal government would continue to protect telecoms infrastructure for the benefits of telecoms operators and subscribers.

Pantami further said; “The federal government in 2013, had an agreement with telecoms operators to implement a flat rate of N145 per linear metre on RoW charges in order to achieve its digital economy drive much faster.

“After I met with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum on the RoW charges early this year, their chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, promised to ensure that all states would reduce RoW charges to N145 per linear metre and since then, several states have complied and the number of states that have complied is increasing.

“In order to create an enabling environment for both investors and consumers, we have addressed the lingering issue of the cost of Right of Way (RoW) to the barest minimum and also put measures in place to eradicate illegal or multiple taxation.

“Prior to the resolution of the RoW issues, many operators noted that they spent as much as 70 per cent of their investment in paying for RoW charges.

“Examples of amounts charged for RoW per linear metre in the past include N4,500 and N5,500, some states even charged about N16,000.

“To give a better illustration, for a particular state, the estimated cost of connecting two Local Government Areas was a staggering N560 million before the implementation of the RoW resolution and now it costs just N150,000.

“President Buhari also approved the designation of relevant telecommunications infrastructure across the country as Critical National Infrastructure (CNI),” Pantami said.

The conference examined the technical study on Effective RoW Administration and Issuance of Planning Permits for Masts and Towers for instituting reforms by state governments and other agencies of government, which was commissioned under the UK Government Prosperity Fund’s Digital Access Programme and undertaken by Greenfields Law.

Pantami said that state governors and chief executive officers of telecommunications companies are among the stakeholders present at the technical conference.

The aim of the conference was to identify pragmatic policy and legal and regulatory Right of Way (RoW) and site build approval processes for adoption by all governments in Nigeria, to facilitate the uniform enhancement of broadband access and availability and the attainment of aspirations of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy 2019 and the National Broadband Plan 2020-2025.

The technical conference is part of the UK government’s technical assistance package in advancing policy and regulatory reforms on RoW in the telecoms sector, with the aim of promoting inclusive and sustainable digital access in the country.

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