The National Economic Council (NEC) yesterday approved a policy to harmonise right of way charges payable by telecommunications companies and related public utility infrastructure on Local Governments, States and Federal Highways.
Minister of Communication Adebayo Shittu briefed State House correspondents at the end of the NEC chaired by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
With him were Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Minister of Trade and Investment Okechukwu Enelamah and Minister of State (Budget and National Planning) Zainab Ahmed.
Shittu said the new policy would encourage co-location of the companies’ fibre optic cables.
Just like the telecommunication masts, which were harmonised after long years of defacing the environment, he said, the government wants to do the same for the laying of fibre optic cables, which is becoming a burden on roads.
According to him, the trend is causing high cost tariffs due to multiple taxes charged telecommunication companies by the Federal, states and local governments.
The new policy, he said, would minimise the spaces occupied, burden on the roads and reduce taxes payable by the telecommunications firms.
He said: “The memo spelt out roles/responsibilities of LGCs, states and telecommunications operators in the management of Right of Way (RoW) issues.
“Most states are still charging different and higher rates, despite NEC’s resolution that mandate states to adopt and implement Federal Ministry of Works guidelines for grant of Right of Way to ICT service on highways.
“Current practice in Nigeria where various telecommunication operators design, survey, dig, deploy and manage their individual fibers networks amounts to duplication of efforts, multiple earthworks and treaches as well as increased administrative and licensing costs.
“The memo invited all stakeholders to consider, adopt and approve the use of shared duct strategy, managed by a designated agency in all tiers of government for the deployment of public utility infrastructure for effective and efficient service delivery and accelerated socio economic development of the country, particularly the transformation of our various cities, towns and villages to a smart status.
“Council asked the Ministry of Communication to liaise with the states and relevant stakeholders for the smooth implementation of the Right of Way project,” he said
Enelamah said that he made a presentation to Council on reforming Nigeria at the Subnational level, emphasising the need to bring Enabling Business Environment Reforms to all tiers of government and all Nigeria.
He informed the Council that there was a strong correlation between Ease of Doing Businesses Ranking and Economic prosperity.
According to him, the Businesses Enabling Environment Agenda being coordinated by the Presidential Enabling Businesses Council is at the heart of Government Agenda, and has the following mandate:
“Removed critical bottlenecks and bureaucratic constraints to doing businesses in Nigeria, aimed at moving the country upwards in global businesses ranking.
“Areas of focus in removing the bottlenecks include: starting a business, entry and exit of people, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, paying taxes, trading across borders and the ease of getting construction permits.”
The minister also informed the Council that the 4th subnational Doing Business rankings for Nigeria is scheduled for 2018, with the 1st, 2nd and 3rd having taken place in 2008, 2010 and 2014.
He said that appropriate templates were already being drawn up to prepare States for the exercise.
Ikpeazu said the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, briefed Council on the balances in the following accounts as at 19th July.
“Excess Crude Account (ECA) $ 2.303 billion, Ecological Fund Account – N27.466 billion, Stabilisation Account – N2.553 billion, and Development of Natural Resources Account – N77.922 billion.
The Gombe State Governor presented a report to the Council on Forensic Audit of Revenue Accrued from Revenue Generating Agencies (RGAs) into Federation Account (FA), Excess Crude Account (ECA) and Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF)
“The Acting President welcomed the Interim Report and noted that Council will await the outcome of the final report and then discuss the Report.”
“The EL-Rufai led AD-Hoc committee of the Council on Ecological Fund set up by the NEC April, submitted its report to Council, recommending, among other things, a robust governance structure and a stringent disbursement criteria to sanitise the management of the fund.
“The committee made the following recommendations: That disbursement of the fund should be based on the following criteria;
“Physical visitation by the Ecological office team and on the spot assessment and verification of the ecological disaster.
“Technical evaluation of the disaster by experts, community involvement; prior to the disaster, there must be evidence of Advocacy, evidence of existing prompt, emergency response mechanism in place before the disaster, monitoring and evaluation framework must be built into the application of Ecological fund as a road map for measuring performance of the fund.
“A feedback team that will review the reports of the disbursement must be in place, adequate publicity of ecological disaster to create awareness and consciousness in the citizenry to avoid future occurrence is necessary, evidence of cost estimate must be attached to application; adequate justification for the project must be given.
“Due process in vendor engagement must be followed; at all times 50% of the FG share or N20 billion must be reserved for emergencies at the discretion of Mr President.”
The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, informed the Council of the overriding need to return the budget cycle to the January – December calendar year.
“That the 2018 – 2020 MTEF is anchored on the ERGP. The current Global Economic outlook posited that the country is expecting growth, though there are still some challenges that may impact negatively on growth from now till 2020.
“He listed policy changes in the US and Britain’s exit from EU, the climate change issue, oil price fluctuations as some of the uncertainties. Assured that the country is already getting out of recession even as oil prices are still sliding. The non-oil sector is growing.
“Recoveries being recorded in Manufacturing, Agriculture and Services. Efforts aimed at achieving peace in Niger Delta yielding fruits.
“ERGP key objectives and the execution priorities will get country back to growth.” it stated