The Chief Executive Officer, Pan African Towers, Wole Abu has disclosed reasons for the slow deployment of telecoms infrastructure in Nigeria, despite the reduction in Right of Way (RoW) charges by some state government.
Abu who appreciated the role played by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy in deepening broadband penetration said the slow rate of deploying telecoms infrastructure in Nigeria boils down to government’s permit, the attitude of landlords, estate agents and the communities at large.
In an interview, Abu stated that the need for more infrastructures cannot be overemphasized.
According to him, the shift to remote working and a heavy concentration on the online space has increased the pressure on available telecoms infrastructure, hence there is a need to deploy more infrastructure to support the growing numbers.
Addressing the challenge, Abu noted that the poor and uninformed attitude exhibited by some landlords and community members each time masts are to be erected are sometimes uncalled for.
In his words, “everybody wants better service but if you want to put a mast in an estate, you will have people who will insist that they do not want the mast in their backyard because of their uninformed positions that telecommunication is linked to disease.
“You have people who want their children to learn on the Internet but they do not allow the mast anywhere close to them. How then will they have access to the Internet? People need to change. From the landlords, there is need to change their attitude and know that telecoms infrastructure deployment should be everybody’s concern. If everyone keeps saying they don’t want a mast in their backyard, then, whose backyard should we put it? People need to be enlightened”, Abu decried.
Speaking further, Abu said Africa only contributes 2% of the global trade because necessary infrastructures aren’t in place.
He added that communities place unreasonable demands on telecom infrastructure companies each time they build towers or lay fibre.
“You are an investor. You are just making an investment and then, they just want you to invest in some other things. They want you to build a palace for them, give away scholarships and all of that.
“What we encounter sometimes is that people do not understand that by bringing that investment there, you have actually helped the community.
“But they will leave the substance which is the site that you are bringing and start pursuing shadow. Some people want the money in their pockets and somebody else wants you to build roads for them. Why we are mindful of our corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative which is robust and well done, we want to create jobs. We do not want to be giving people fish; teaching them how to fish is more valuable. By the time you are bringing infrastructure in a community, you have enabled all the businesses in that place because you have created a platform for them to connect”, he said.
On part of the government, Abu stated that slow response from the government while granting the right permits delay the deployment process even after landlords and community issues are sorted out.
“You still have the government issue to deal with because without government’s permits, you run the risk of sanctions but some of these permits do not come at the right time. You barely have three or four weeks to deliver a site. The actual construction process does not take time.
“But sometimes, these other issues that have to do with a lot of moving parts can delay your site for months. From a technology perspective, we know what a site is – Concrete and civil works. It is all these other parts that are left to different interpretations in our country that is creating the problem. We think that this is the area where we all should work together to create more understanding”, Abu noted.
Abu commended FG as efforts to resolve the challenge has led to six states total removal and reduction of the Right of Way (RoW) charges.
While explaining that fibre infrastructure is a point-to-point connection, he said because the removal of reduction was not done by all the state governors, the infrastructural deployment crisis still persists.
“ If you are going to run fibre from the landing point in Lagos to Abuja, you will probably pass through eight to ten states. Along that road, maybe it is just only one state that has reduced RoW charges to the N145 per linear metre stipulated by the federal government.
But you cannot fly to avoid other states that have not aligned with the price. You still have to deal with other people that have not done it. That is one thing about fibre infrastructure.
If I am running from Lagos through Ogun State, through Oyo State, to Osun and to Ekiti; even if Ekiti has done the needful, what about these other ones? If I am running, let say, a 300 kilometre fibre, it is over the 50 kilometres inside Ekiti that I will enjoy reduced charges; the remaining 250 kilometres will still be at high rates. In this kind of arrangement, Ekiti State may still not reap that reward internally. That is why all the state governors have to align with the agreed charges. That is the challenge.
He however urged other state governments to align with the agreed price of N145 per linear as a way of embracing the investment as a good step.
“When people are deploying fibre, you are hearing 20,000km, 2,000km; it is a large number. So, these few states are the beginning but we need others to follow because the investment is not in one place. Yes, what we have had will benefit those few states if we want to do metro fibre within those states. But typically, the way fibre is deployed, you are taking traffic from one place to somewhere else. We need other states to come on board”, Abu noted.
He also disclosed that aside from the N145 agreed on, state government deceptively demand taxes in other areas, as a result, the impact of the RoW reduction can’t be felt.