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NCC sets July deadline for N165bn interconnect debt settlement

Umar Danbatta, the executive vice chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), says telecommunications companies have agreed to settle the N165 billion interconnect debt owed to each other.

Danbatta made this known when Olusola Teniola, president of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), visited the NCC headquarters in Abuja.

Interconnect debt arises when an operator fails to settle the cost of termination of service rendered to it by another operator in the industry.

With interconnection, a subscriber can reach subscribers on other networks through calls and text messages.

“We mediated on what the actions and powers of what the commission can do in terms of crisis like this because there is a debt crisis in the industry,” Danbatta said.

“But it is being managed very well. We all agreed yesterday that pragmatic ways must be found to settle the debts and a deadline had been given as mid-July for the payment plan.

“That is pragmatic, it is being worked out in order to ensure that those who owe will start paying and those who are being owed start receiving what is being owed to them.”

The NCC boss said states are not adhering to a document by the national economic council, which is supposed to ease the challenges of deploying broadband infrastructure across the country.

“A document that specifies a tax of about a N145 per meter length of fibre but unfortunately, states in the country are charging in excess of the amount between N7,000 to N8,000 per meter length of fibre.

“At that meeting, one of the resolutions was that the provision of the NEC report should be respected; it is still an extant provision and therefore all states of the federation should ensure compliance to N145 per meter.”

In his remarks, Teniola sought the NCC’s assistance on the issue of multiple taxations in the sector. He said telecoms companies currently face 38 different types of taxes.

“And this does not come from the telecom regulator as it comes especially from the ministry of finance and the ministry needs to harmonise the taxes faced by the industry as it serves as a disincentive to roll out broadband services,” he said.

“Without our ability to attract investment to actually roll- out broadband infrastructure, then we have consumers who are not benefiting from the digital benefit that exist in the cities.

“We need the taxes to be removed to encourage investment.”