Telecommunications companies in the country have said that the failure of the Federal Government to provide incentives like waivers and lower import duties, tariffs and other levies is hindering the quality of services being rendered by them.
The firms stated this on Wednesday while denying claims that the immediate past government of President Goodluck Jonathan had crashed import duties on telecommunications equipment to five per cent in order to encourage the growth of broadband in the country.
In May this year, shortly before President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in, the Jonathan administration had stated that it had reduced the import duties payable on telecoms equipment from 25 per cent to five per cent for the first two years, and simplified the procedures for the importation of the equipment and the development of related software.
However, an official of Etisalat, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said the pronouncement “was never implemented, but was only on paper.”
The official said, “The government (Jonathan’s administration) also granted pioneer status to qualified investors in the broadband sector as well as engaging in constant sale of spectrum to would-be broadband investors, but did not go any step further than that.
“Had the government gone ahead to implement its pronouncement, more than 96 per cent of the broadband services would currently be delivered through wireless means, which is not happening, hence the consistent poor quality of service.”
Despite the government’s refusal to grant waivers and reduce the import duties for telecoms equipment, the Public Relations and Protocol Manager, MTN Nigeria, Mr. Funsho Aina, stated that the telcos were operating in an environment where there was constant pressure to reduce tariffs.
He said in order to remain competitive, the telecoms firms had resorted to giving subscribers heavy discounts, saying, “We appreciate that this is always in the interest of customers.”
Aina, however, said to cushion the impact on the operators, “It is important for the government to provide smart incentives like waivers and reduction in import duties, tariffs and other levies that operators normally pay.
“Relatedly, it will help government fast-track the declaration of telecommunications infrastructure as a critical national infrastructure roll-out and maintenance, and enable us pass back savings to customers in the form of lower tariffs.”
While the telecoms firms are still tackling issues of high tariffs and import duties, the President, Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria, Mr. Lanre Ajayi, said steps had been taken to entrench the Open Access model to actualise the growth target for broadband market.
“MainOne and IHS have won Infrastructure Companies’ licences for Lagos and the North-Central respectively, while plans are ongoing by the Nigerian Communications Commission to license five more InfraCos, all in a bid to deepen broadband penetration in the country,” he said.
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.
Source : Punch