By Martin Ekpeke
Telecom operators in the Nigeria’s telecommunications industry seem comfortable with the huge interconnect debts of N165 billion, as its umbrella body, the Association of Lienced Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) disclosed it has not received complaints from any of the operators.
The Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta had in a session with Journalists in Abuja last week stated that the N165billion interconnect indebtedness in the Nigeria’s telecom industry is worrisome.
But in an interaction with ITPulse, Head, Operations at ALTON, Mr. Gbolahan Awonuga said the association is also worried just like the NCC, which has directed it to intervene among its members, but revealed hat none of its members have come forward to ALTON to officially complain.
“Yes, the issue of interconnect debt in the telecom industry is worrisome to ALTON and actually, NCC has directed us to intervene among our members, but none has come forward to ALTON to officially complain. And being a sensitive issue, the association also is being careful as there are commercial agreements between them,” he emphasized.
He blamed last year’s recession as part of the problem, but suggested bailout for the settlement of the indebtedness as a way forward, warning that use of force to settle the debts may force many operators to go under.
He commended the Nigerian Communications Commission for its efforts at making things work, especially in organizing the stakeholder forum on multiple taxation, but said the issue of the Cost of Right of way must be totally addressed, not by NCC this time but the Presidency.
Gbolahan also said ALTON has made several representations to the office of the Vice President and Ease of Doing Business to make an Executive order declaring telecoms infrastructure as a National critical asset, adding that there is an urgent need to review the Taxes and levies Amended Order 2015.
He noted that States are just doing what they like with regards to taxes on telecom operators, thereby stifling the operators from expanding networks in Nigeria. “Our State is only interested in what they can get presently, but we believe that operators need to expand. It takes the cost of 3 sites in Ghana to establish one in Nigeria,” he added.