Lagos insists fibre-laying firms to pay N1500/km

Written by on October 7, 2020

Lagos State Government has said it will not honour Federal Government’s appeal that telecoms firms, currently laying fibres round the country, should pay N145 per linear kilometre. It, instead, insists that the firms should pay N1,500 for Right of Way (RoW).

It made its position known through Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance and Regulatory Agency (LASIMRA). LASIMRA stressed that the FG’s stance on N145 per linear kilometre was only advisory, not a directive.

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Issa Pantami, had insisted that telcos should reject any hike in RoW by states. He stressed that there was an agreement between the ministry and the NGF on N145 per linear kilometre

Speaking with newsmen, General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of LASIMRA, Funsho Elulade, said he was surprised some people argued that the cost should be brought down.

Elulade, an engineer, aware that Ekiti, Kaduna, Imo, and Plateau states, among others, have slashed their charges, said: “We are not looking at that because it is not a law, it is advice. I am so surprised that people are raising it now. This was part of the National Economic Council (NEC) resolution in 2013. So, it is not a new thing. The cost of doing business in Jigawa or Ondo State is not the same thing as in Lagos.

“The Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC) wrote the Governor of Lagos State and he sent the letter to me for comments. I replied that it was not possible. I gave all the parameters why Lagos would not do N145 and we stuck to our N1,500 per linear kilometre. Also, in the same NEC resolution, it was written that by 2014, I am entitled to be charging N50 per linear metre on all the cables laid. LASIMRA (and Lagos State) has not charged it. So, you see that I have money outside to collect.”

The LASIMRA boss said the state was working to separate quacks from professionals in the sector, the reason it was working to get telecoms operators in the state registered. He said the state was on the verge of ensuring that RoW approvals were automated.

Elulade, however, said the ongoing fibre cable installation was part of initiatives to make the state smart. He said the project was part of the 6000-kilometre fibre cable infrastructure, targeted at strengthening connectivity across the state.

THE project, he added, is divided into two phases, each having 3000km fibre infrastructure to be deployed.“We are doing the first phase because the present administration wants to make sure it operates a smart city within this administration. The contract is for 24 months; it started in April but COVID-19 slowed it down, so we could say it started May-June. And as of today, we are well ahead of schedule as over 1500 kilometres of fibre duct has been laid.

He said the project was being handled a contractor, a concessionaire, because the project is a PPP project and has sub-contractors working simultaneously within the state.

“People are working in Epe, Badagry, Ikorodu and different parts of the metropolis. This speeds up the construction and likely to shorten the contract duration. For me, I believe that, by this time next year, we should have completed this phase,” he stated. He described the project as a unification of fibre infrastructure for telecoms operators in the state.

The Guardian learnt that, in May, the Lagos State House of Assembly approved the plan, signifying deployment of a single cable duct for all telcos and other utility providers operating in the city. It is a “dig once” policy implemented to prevent the fragmented and constant digging of state roads by different telecoms operators and Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Further findings showed the project was being implemented as a ‘Special Purpose Vehicle’, and handled by Messrs Western Telecommunications and Engineering Services Metro Limited, whose identities remained shrouded in secrecy.

However, The Guardian gathered that the leadership of these firms has Indian origins. On how much the state was committing to the project, Elulade said he could not state. “But what I can tell you is that government has granted the company handling the project RoW. Ideally, if you want to lay any cable, whether for gas, power, electricity or fibre optic, you have to come to

LASIMRA for approval. “So, for LASIMRA not to take that money, I am sure it is part of government’s contributions. We have granted them 3000 kilometres of RoW. That is part of government’s contributions. Predominantly, it is the concessionaire that is funding this project, because it is Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT). Perhaps, after 20, 25 years, he would have recouped his money, then the project becomes that of government.”

Commenting on the project, President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, said LASIMRA was working with the industry to find a way to integrate the Unified Duct System (UDS) with current Optic Fibre cables already laid under RoWs that were given to members at rates already agreed.

Teniola said though members were negotiating with the concessionaire on the UDS infrastructure, “it is apparent NGN145/linear meter will not solve the issue of infrastructure deployment costs being high as there are other charges applied that exceeds the RoW charges per linear metre. We, as a body, are continuously finding a way to align the RoW charges in line with the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantanmi’s agreement with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) on January 2020 and believe that with time, Lagos State will provide commercial terms that represent a RoW in line with NGN145/linear metre or even lower based on the UDS being deployed.”

On the impact of this development on the country’s 70 per cent broadband penetration come 2025, the ATCON boss said operators would base their optic fiber and 4G deployment plans where they believe a business case existed while government would provide incentives to take deployment to rural areas of the country.

Reacting to claims that telcos are shortchanging the state, Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) Gbenga Adebayo, said the body was not aware of such.

“We are, however, working with LASIMRA and making good progress. So far, things are working well in Lagos and in LASIMRA,” he said.
According to him, there is a subsisting agreement with the state, which was a settlement judgment “we entered into and parties have been bound by that agreement. We are now looking into a review and we hope to come up with something acceptable to all, in line with the current realities.”

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