Bayelsa State, home state of President Goodluck Jonathan, has inked a landmark agreement to join the growing league of ‘Smart States’ in Nigeria, in what commits the government to infrastructure deployment concessions that deepen penetration of ICTs in the state.
[blockquote right=”pull-right”]”Seriake Dickson, Governor of Bayelsa, who inked the Smart State deal on behalf of the government pledged to grant an immediate 50% cut on Right of Way (RoW) charges paid by telecoms companies and other infrastructure builders, in committing to key terms of the programme and transformation of the state using ICTs.” [/blockquote]
Bayelsa sealed the deal with the Ministry of Communication Technology and the Broadband Council, which are jointly promoting the ‘’Smart State’’ initiative to engage governors and relevant authorities at State and Federal levels in Nigeria to remove impediments like multiple taxations, which bogs down rollout of critical communication links across the country.
Seriake Dickson, Governor of Bayelsa, who inked the Smart State deal on behalf of the government pledged to grant an immediate 50% cut on Right of Way (RoW) charges paid by telecoms companies and other infrastructure builders, in committing to key terms of the programme and transformation of the state using ICTs.
Under the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed between Bayelsa state and the CommTech Ministry, which makes Bayelsa a ‘Smart State’, the government will also ensure that effective measures are adopted to remove arbitrary charges and eradicate multiple taxations.
With his inking of the deal, and the subsequent concession, Bayelsa is going the way of Lagos, another member of the Nigerian Smart City league, which has approved a 85% cut on all RoW charges across the nation’s economic capital.
Omobola Johnson, Minister of Communication Technology, who signed off the pact with Bayesa at the Bayelsa State Investment and Economic Forum (BSIEF) 2014 Forum held weekend in Yenogoa, the state capital, noted that ICTs play a crucial role in promoting inclusive development.
In a presentation, Technology Infrastructure and eCommerce Growth, made to the forum, the CommTech Minister highlighted the current scenario and future opportunities in the Nigerian ICT Industry.
According to the Minister, State Governments have a role to play in ICT growth by encouraging speedy infrastructure deployment.
Johnson urged the Bayelsa State Governor to focus on ICT infrastructure development in the state by waiving RoW for two years, a development that making it easy for fibre to be built in in the state.
Other measures along the line include reduction of multiple taxation, enabling new roads being built or rehabilitated in the state to have fibre duct infrastructure, assigning a single agency to collect levies, taxes and fees on behalf of the state and protect ICT infrastructure in the state.
At the event, Dickson pledged a 50% reduction in ROW charges and the setting up of a single agency to administer the collection of all taxes and levies in Bayelsa.
According to him, the State is proud to be selected as a Smart State and will put in place all the necessary measures needed to make Bayelsa a model ICT state in Nigeria.
Other Smart States selected by the Broadband Council include Anambra, Gombe, Katsina and Ondo.
The CommTech Ministry says it is working to ensure that the bottlenecks that mitigate service quality delivery are removed and has partnered with the Ministry of Works to develop new Right of Way RoW guidelines for Federal Government roads.
Under the plan, this will enable operators have “unencumbered’ means of laying fibre optic cable which is critical for infrastructure development and quality of service.
The Minister said that the Guideline will also remove arbitrary charges and eradicate multiple taxations that impede telecoms development across the nation.
The Ministry for the first time in the history of Nigeria’s telecoms revolution got state governors and relevant authorities at the state and federal level to address the issue of multiple taxation and adopt measures that will remove arbitrary charges and eradicate multiple taxations to enhance service delivery across the nation, she added.
Following this initiative, “a landmark agreement with the Lagos state government facilitated by the Ministry was brokered to address issues of RoW, base station deployment etc. Cost of RoW was slashed from 3000 to 500- a reduction of 85%”
The CommTech Ministry says it is working replicate this in other states by convincing other state governors and relevant authorities at the state level to eliminate multiple taxation and adopt measures that will remove arbitrary charges and enhance telecoms service delivery.
An assessment of the deployment of ICT infrastructure revealed that almost 70% of deployment cost was spent on processing ROW; taxes and levies on infrastructure, which makes the landmark agreement with the Lagos State Government even more significant, according to the Ministry.
“The Ministry strongly believes that the elimination of multiple taxes will result in cost effective, accelerated and massive deployment of ICT infrastructure across the country, which will enhance quality delivery issues currently being experienced by telecoms subscribers.”
The CommTech Minister reckons that the accelerated deployment of ICT infrastructure, “cannot be done without due consideration for the environment. The industry has been plagued with inter-agency conflicts and unduly long approval processes in ensuring that laid down standards are adhered to. The Ministry further committed itself to maintaining environmental standards and fostering inter-agency cooperation when it reached an Agreement with the Ministry of Environment and National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) on the construction of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS).”