We received with dismay the decision of some states of the Federation to increase the Right of Way charges in disregard of the resolutions reached by the National Economic Council (NEC).
It may be recalled that in 2013, NEC set up a Committee comprising Governors and Ministers to review the issues of multiple taxation in the telecommunications industry in Nigeria and its impact.
The Committee, after extensive and wide-ranging consultations, resolved to harmonize the taxes applicable to broadband-related activities and streamline the taxation management processes across the Federation. Specifically, to deepen broadband penetration for the social and economic development of the Country, the Committee agreed to the uniform Right of Way (RoW) charge of N145.00 per linear meter of fibre.
It may also be recalled that in October 2019, we had written to all the Governors, drawing their attention to these resolutions and soliciting their support and collaboration towards the realisation of the National Digital Economy by fast-tracking the deployment of broadband infrastructure for the provision of affordable internet services to underserved and unserved areas.
It is true that the digital economy today is strategically dominating the world economy. Oxford Economics puts the current value of the digital economy at $11.5 trillion which is about 16% of the world economy. Furthermore, the World Economic Forum revealed that 60% of the global economy is expected to be digitised by 2022.
With the renaming of the Federal Ministry of Communications to Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy as well as the unveiling of the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy by Mr President, we are on the path of realising the potentials of the digital economy.
It is, however, disheartening to hear that some States have decided to disregard these resolutions and have, in some cases, increased the RoW charges by over 1,200%. This will no doubt impact negatively on the efforts being made by the Federal Government.
It is established that there is a strong correlation between a country’s broadband penetration and its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
An ITU study on Africa indicates that a 10% broadband penetration would result in an increase of 2.5% of GDP per capita.
We are, therefore, calling on all Governors, especially those that have made public their decisions to increase the RoW charges, to reconsider these decisions in the interest of Nigerians as well as for the socio-economic growth and development of the country.
We also draw their attention to the fact that these decisions, if implemented, will result in an increase in the costs of operations of the telecoms operators which will naturally be passed to the consumers.
*Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami),
Minister of Communications & Digital Economy, Abuja.