THE Kogi State Government through its Kogi State Internal Revenue Service agency has shut down a number of critical telecommunications sites in the state in a bid to force telecom operators to pay more taxes and levies.
According to the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, this is likely to cause a potential communications blackout in the whole of Kogi, parts of Abuja, Nassarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, and Niger states.
The umbrella body of telecom providers said the telecom facilities were being shut down as a result of disputes arising from unusual taxes and levies demanded by the state government in an attempt to increase its Internally Generated Revenue collection.
In a statement, ALTON said, “This action followed an ex-parte court order obtained by the KIRS over unsubstantiated allegations that our members are in default of tax payments to the state government (which is not the truth) and access to these critical telecom sites has been denied.
“As a result of these actions by the state government, our members are unable to refuel power generators in these sites, a situation which has led to outage of over 70 sites including hub sites across parts of Kogi State. Now, with a likely impact on nine states surrounding Kogi (namely: Nasarawa, Benue, Enugu, Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Kwara, Niger states. These are states sharing borders with Kogi State), and Abuja the FCT inclusive.
“We are very concerned that this indiscriminate action has the potential of further leading to a total telecommunications outage in Kogi State with neighboring states and parts of the Federal Capital Territory adversely impacted.
“To the best of our knowledge, our members have settled all statutory levies and taxes due to the Kogi State Government and have taken necessary steps to comply with local laws that govern business activities within Kogi State.
“These are charges described as: annual right of way renewal; social services contribution; employee economic development levy; mast site premises renewal; fire service yearly renewal.
“Others are from the Kogi State Environmental Protection Board on: payment of environmental levy; failure to submit an environmental impact assessment report; failure to register industry; failure to submit environmental audit report every two years; storage of petroleum products and radioactive materials without written permission from KSEPB; failure to comply with setbacks to roads, power lines, and rivers/streams; and dumping of toxic or hazardous substances or hazardous substances or harmful waste without KSEPB approval.
According to ALTON, the action of KIRS will jeopardise communication services provided to security agencies such as the Nigeria Police Force, the Armed Forces, emergency and social services in Kogi and other neighboring states, as well as automatic teller machines across the affected states.
It added that the shutdown was already affecting its ability to deliver communications services to critical agencies of the governments across the affected states.
It said the office of the National Security Adviser had in the past asked the 36 state governments in the nation to treat telecommunications sites as Critical National Infrastructure.
According to it, the sites are critical socio-economic and security infrastructure, and states had been advised against sealing them off as such actions would negatively impact national security.