The Nigerian Communications Commission NCC refuted allegations that it plans regulating Over-The-Top Services (OTT) which include but are not limited to Whatsapp, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), Skype, Facebook and Youtube.
This was disclosed at the the 3rd Quarter Seminar of Nigeria Information and Communications Technology Reporters’ Association (NITRA) in Lagos with the theme: The Impact of over Regulation of the Telecommunications Industry on Service Quality.
The Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, in his speech said that the commission’s focus areas is to facilitate Broadband penetration and be able to meet the nation’s 30 per cent Broadband rollout target by 2018.
Danbatta who was represented by NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo, said that this can only happen in a harmonious environment where the operators are encouraged to rollout, where the regulator and other important relevant stakeholders are not encumbered with unnecessary distractions.
On steps taken to stem over-regulation of telecoms operators, the EVC said, “Taking a dispassionate look at the situation, the Commission under the new management decided to reach out to other agencies and the state governors with the view to convince them to take another look at the industry and create environments that will favour operators and thus be able to contribute more in terms of investment, employment and taxes. This course of action, which we will want to describe as quiet diplomacy, is helping to bring some needed stability to the sector.
“We have met with their Excellencies under the Governors Forum. We have told them about the existence of a document put together by the National Economic Council which spells out charges on telco infrastructure rollout. This document stipulates charges of N145 per metre of fibre and another N20 for maintenance. There are some states where they charge as much as N8, 000 per metre length of fibre!
“We are reaching out to their Excellencies, the Governors, individually to drive home our point of view and we are happy to announce here that the states we have visited
understand our story. We were in Kaduna State where, His Excellency, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai who in other times has done so much for the telecommunications industry, is in strategic alliance with us to improve the fortunes of the industry, and by extension that of the State.
“We were in Kano State; and also recently visited Ogun State. In these States we noticed infrastructure gaps where the Commission can make intervention through some budgetary
provisions, and highlighted issues that trouble the industry. Some of the issues are right of way, double taxation or even some kind of environmental charges resulting in closure of base stations. They have all promised to work with us.
“Ogun State presented and interesting story. Before our visit to His Excellency, Governor Ibikunle Amosun, about 47 base transceiver stations had been shut down by the Ministry of Urban and Regional Planning. Once the implications of such closure were explained to the His Excellency, and a strong intervention made by the Commission, he immediately directed the Commissioner in charge to take action and reopen them.
“One of the operators was owing N370m on ground rent for those base stations. The Governor was magnanimous enough to slice it to N120m. Such is the result that our quiet diplomacy is yielding.
“But you look at it. There are various actions that result in over-regulation. What we are not careful to study sometimes is how those actions negate the efforts of the operators and degrade the quality of the networks.
“We want to create a win-win situation for the telecommunications industry and the host communities of service providers but over-regulation will continue to be a barrier. My charge to you today as reporters and valued stakeholders of the industry is not to begrudge anybody for their actions but to use your knowledge of the industry to explain why certain actions should not be taken. It is in our collective interest for the industry to continue to post strong figures attesting to the impact of the telecom sector in our social and economic development.
Section,”he admonished.
In his speech, the General Manager, Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance and Regulatory Agency, Babajide Odekunle, said it has engaged with the NCC in order to ensure that support is given to operations in the areas of infrastructural deployment and service delivery to all stakeholders as it is on record that in 12 months no Base Transceiver Station has been shut despite huge debts incurred by some operators in the State.
He said the state has been a fore runner in promoting ease of doing business as issues of over regulation or multiplicity of taxes, levies and charges are completely eliminated.
In his welcome address, the the President, Nigeria Information and Communications Technology Reporters’ Association (NITRA), Mr. Emma Okonji, said the issues with multiple taxation and regulation are becoming sources of worries to telecoms operators and industry stakeholders.
He however said that as watch-dog of the society, the telecoms reporters has a duty to protect the gains of the industry and it is for this reason that NITRA thought it wise to bring together, the government, the operators and the subscribers, to find a common ground where the issue of multiple regulations and taxes could be addressed amicably, in the interest of subscribers and for the continued growth of the sector.

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