Prof. Umar Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on Thursday said the commission was taking pragmatic steps to resolve the N165 billion interconnect debt owed by some telecom operators. Danbatta disclosed this when the President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr Olusola Teniola led his team to visit the NCC headquarters in Abuja. Interconnect debt results when an operator fails to settle the cost of termination of service rendered to it by another operator in the industry. Interconnection is important in the telecoms industry because it enables the subscriber to experience the smoothness of a connected or one network.
Thus, with interconnection, a subscriber does not care and does not need to know whether the person at the other end of the network subscribes to another network operator. He said that because of the realisation of the implication of the debt burden on the industry, NCC arranged a very important meeting of all the telecommunication companies recently. “ We mediated on what the actions and powers of what the commission can do in terms of crisis like this because there is a debt crisis in the industry. “But it is being managed very well. We all agreed yesterday that pragmatic ways must be found to settle the debts and a deadline had been given as mid-July for the payment plan. “That is pragmatic, it is being worked out in order to ensure that those who owe will start paying and those who are being owed start receiving what is being owed to them,’’ he said.
The EVC also said the commission made a presentation to the National Economic Council (NEC) where the members of the Governors Forum were in attendance on the challenges that face deployment of broadband infrastructure in the country. He said NCC complained about lack of adherence to the provision of NEC document. “A document that specifies a tax of about a N145 per meter length of fibre but unfortunately, states in the country are charging in excess of the amount between N7,000 to N8,000 per meter length of fibre. “At that meeting, one of the resolutions was that the provision of the NEC report should be respected; it is still an extant provision and therefore all states of the federation should ensure compliance to N145 per meter,’’ he said.
Earlier, Teniola said his team was in NCC to introduce the newly elected National Executive Council of the association to the EVC and to discuss other challenges facing the association. He said ATCON was passionate about making sure that broadband penetration in Nigeria became high. He said part of the strategy the association had earmarked to achieve this feat was the introduction of ATCON Broadband and Technology Investment Forum in all states of the Federation. “The plan is to work majorly with the NCC and all state governors and commissioners of ICT in the country to organise this forum in all the states and in 2018, we plan to stage this forum in three states – Kano Akwa-Ibom and Osun.
“The strategic objective of this initiative is to promote greater awareness about the state’s technology and broadband investments potential, identify viable technology investment projects for both private and public sectors. “Increased government and private investments and spending in broadband infrastructure. Part of the essence of the forum is to also generate jobs for the people of the state,” he said. Teniola sought the assistance of NCC on the issue of “multiple taxations’’, adding that the telecom companies at the moment were facing 38 different taxations.
“And this does not come from the telecom regulator as it comes especially from the ministry of finance and the ministry needs to harmonise the taxes faced by the industry as it serves as a disincentive to roll out broadband services. “Without our ability to attract investment to be actually roll-out broadband infrastructure, then we have consumers who are not benefiting from the digital benefit that exist in the cities.