The Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has reacted to a report by Punch News media about the illegalities common in the telecommunication sector. It has moved to clear the air on the allegations and its response is reprinted here.
In a statement signed by Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, chairman of the association, ALTON says that ‘there is no doubt that the telecoms sector is the best regulated (if not an over-regulated) sector when compared with other sectors of the Nigerian economy. To its credit, the NCC has been a champion of regulatory best practices which emphasizes proactively addressing issues; rather than playing to the gallery by imposing draconian sanctions, as the Editorial seems to advocate.
‘In fact, as the report correctly notes, the NCC has on several cases imposed heavy sanctions on our members for infractions. While ALTON often disagrees with the NCC on some of these sanctions, it would be unfair for anyone to suggest that the Commission has been lax or overly accommodating of breaches of any kind.
‘We are also deeply concerned that although the report mentioned challenges faced by telecoms operators in Nigeria, it unfairly downplayed the effect of these challenges on service provision.
‘It is on record that in 2001 when the industry was liberalized, many global players shunned the opportunity because of a dearth of supporting infrastructure. Those who eventually took up the licenses paid as high as $285Million for each license on the assurance that the license fees would be used to build and/or improve supporting infrastructure, particularly power and transmission networks.
‘18 years after, operators are still left to self-provide power, transmission, security and other supporting infrastructure which are taken for granted in other jurisdictions. The Editorial itself attested to the fact that a single telecoms operator spent over N30billion on diesel per annum, which is one of the highest usages in the country today. This should be of concern to serious analysts.
‘Also, it is rather disturbing that the Editorial mentioned that issues of Right of Way (RoW), Multiple Taxation, Vandalisation of infrastructure, accessibility issues and shutting down of telecom infrastructure are rampant in Nigeria but claims that these are ‘weak arguments’ for poor performance.
‘In the first place, we make bold to state that the quality of telecoms services in Nigeria is amongst the best in comparable jurisdictions, despite the challenges our members face in their day-to-day operations. Secondly, it is remarkable that despite the extremely high cost of providing services in Nigeria, the telecoms industry is the only sector where charges have been stable (even falling).
‘Our members daily do battle the State, Local Government agencies who aggressively harass them to pay both legitimate and illegitimate taxes and levies which runs to several million Naira in some cases, they daily contend with high costs of diesel, frequent theft of equipment, etc. without increasing tariffs. It is on record that the cost of building one BTS site in Nigeria will build three similar structures in Ghana.
‘Despite all of these, our subscribers pay far less tariffs per minute than they paid five years ago, and data charges have continued to fall over the years as we struggle to democratize access to life-changing telecoms services.
‘Indeed, we challenge the Punch to name any other service that has resisted inflationary trends as telecoms service. Not even the price of pure water has been as stable as telecoms services. ALTON members and the industry regulator deserve commendation for this feat, not scurrilous condemnation,’ he stated.