N285m levy: Anger, anxiety as Taraba shuts telecom base stations
Major base transceiver station sites of Global System for Mobile communication operators in Taraba State have been shut over fresh demands for the payment of environmental protection levy of N285m by each telecom operators.
It was gathered that the clampdown on telecom infrastructure by the state Ministry of Justice commenced on Tuesday when the operators refused to comply with the demand for the payment.
It was learnt that in the past three days, security, banking and communication activities in the state had been difficult as a result of the shutdown of the telecom infrastructure.
Findings showed that the Taraba Environmental Protection Agency requested for the registration of Environmental Impact Assessment for every telecom site in the state, verification of the EIA report and annual environmental monitoring on the site.
After these, each operator is expected to pay the N285m levy to the state Ministry of Environment.
In a letter written by the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria to the Taraba State Governor and copied to the Federal ministries of Justice and Finance; Nigerian Communications Commission; State Commandant, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps; and other security agencies, ALTON stated that a court ruling had directed states to desist from imposing fees outside those listed in the Taxes and Levies (Approved list of Collection) Act of 1998.
The letter obtained by our correspondent and signed by the ALTON Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo, and Executive Secretary, Kazeem ‘Ladepo, noted that the illegal sealing of base stations was a criminal offence under the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous) Provisions Act CAP. C39 L.F.N. (2004).
According to them, the action by the officials of the state does not follow due process and is a threat to national security.
The letter read in part, “The incidence of closure of our members’ BTS sites and other telecommunications infrastructure in your domain on the excuse of non-payment of arbitrarily imposed taxes and levies would impact adversely on the quality of service, as the BTS sites will go down due to lack of access to effect repairs, maintenance and refuelling of the generators on the sites.
“This development will further worsen the quality of service available to the esteemed citizens of the state, which you are voted to govern. Our members are committed to supporting the law enforcement agencies in the country to investigate and prosecute the rising rate of crimes, including kidnapping and armed robbery in the country.
“The arbitrary closure of our members’ BTS will not allow our members to support the law enforcement agencies in this regard. This poses a serious security risk to the citizens of Taraba State whom the government is constitutionally mandated to protect.
“We are highly concerned that the demand notices evidently seek to promote an arbitrary revenue drive and amount to imposing punitive measures on the telecoms industry aimed at discouraging the operations of telecommunications providers within Taraba State.”
The association requested the state government to put a stop to actions that would affect the provision of telecommunications services to Taraba State and the country.
There are about 26 taxes and levies being imposed on telecommunications companies at the federal, state and local government levels.
Operators say the multiple taxes are taking a heavy toll on their business and will have a multiplier effect on call tariffs if not checked.Punch