According to ALTON Chairman the shutdown of telecoms facilities in Kogi State would lead to a total communications blackout in Kogi and nine other states
Investors in Nigeria’s telecoms sector under the aegis of Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria (ATLON) have warned of imminent communication blackout in Kogi State and nine other adjoining States.
The association gave the warning at a press conference held yesterday in Lagos to express concern over the shutting down of major telecommunications facilities in Kogi State. ATLON at the press briefing decried the shutdown of the telecom facilities as a result of disputes arising from taxes and levies demanded by Kogi State through its Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, Kogi State Environmental Protection Board, championed by the Kogi State Internal Revenue Service (KIRS).
According to ALTON Chairman, Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, the shutdown of telecoms facilities in Kogi State would lead to a total communications blackout in Kogi State, as well as in some parts of the following states sharing borders with Kogi: Nasarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, Niger and in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Adebayo explained that a number of critical telecommunications sites have been sealed up by Kogi State Government in an attempt to increase its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) collected from telecoms operators.
Said Adebayo: “This action followed an ex-parte court order obtained by the KIRS over unsubstantiated allegations that our members are in default of tax payments to the state government (which is not the truth) and access to these critical telecom sites has been denied.
“As result of these actions by the Kogi State government, our members are unable 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. Now, with likely impact on Nine States surrounding Kogi (namely:- Nasarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, Niger States. These are States sharing borders with Kogi State), and Abuja the FCT inclusive,” he added.
Adebayo however lamented that the state government took the decision to shut down these telecoms facilities even when ALTON members had settled all statutory levies and taxes due to the Kogi State Government and had taken necessary steps to comply with local laws that govern business activities within Kogi State.
“ALTON is worried that the action by KIRS will jeopardize communication services provided by its members to security agencies such as the Nigeria Police Force, the Armed Forces in addition and to other emergency and social services in Kogi and other neighboring states.
“This will include affecting communication links to Bank automatic teller machines (ATM) across those states. The outage currently being experienced is already affecting the ability of our members to provide uninterrupted service delivery to Commercial Banks, Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and other critical agencies of government in the aforementioned locations.”
The ALTON boss pointed out that the office of the National Security Adviser to Mr. President has in the past communicated to the 36 state governments on the fact that telecommunications sites are Critical National Infrastructure (CNI). “They are critical socio-economic and security infrastructure. The agency had strongly advised against sealing them as such actions would have negative implications on national security. State Governments were encouraged to explore other means of resolving tax related disputes rather than sealing telecommunications sites. It is therefore worrisome that the KIRS continue to ignore such advice.”
He claimed the members have made several overtures to Kogi State Internal Revenue Service KIRS in the past months in a bid to resolve the disputed issues amicably but the agency has remained adamant. “Rather than resort to the Tax Arbitration Tribunal for intervention as is expected of a government agency, KIRS has resorted to subtle intimidation by getting the sites shut down in a bid to coerce our members into accepting the illegal taxes and levies.”
He said, “As an industry, this situation is very worrisome and of great concern and we hereby call on His Excellency, The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who is driving the Presidential Enable Business Council on Ease of doing business in Nigeria to prevail on the Kogi State Governor His Excellency, Yahaya Bello to reign in on the matter to prevent a total blackout in communications services in Kogi, FCT and other Nine States of the Federation which are now under threat due to what is happening to our network in Kogi State.”