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Next Level: Buhari pledges internet access, silent on way out of industry worries

More details have continued to be deciphered from the recently released President Muhammadu Buhari’s ‘Next Level’ Campaign Document for the 2019 Presidential election.
The document assured the administration’s commitment to granting increased internet access to the poorest in the society.
However, the document was silent on how to resolve several complaints and worries that had been serious encumbrances to the speed of investments by telecoms investors.
It would be recalled that both the Association of Licenced Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) and Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), had over the years been crying over multiple taxation, hitches in securing Right of Way (RoW), inclusion of critical telecoms components in the list of 41 forex barred items by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), mast vandalism, fibre cuts and others.
On Monday this week, the Chairman of ALTON, Engr Gbenga Adebayo, who addressed journalists in Lagos raised alarm on the frustrations faced by his members in Kogi State over the introduction of frivolous taxes and incessant shutdown of telecoms facilities by state government agencies.
ALTON who said that their ability to deliver quality services in Kogi State is currently under serious threat and that if the state Governor, Mr. Yahaya Bello is not timely called to order, members will have no other alternative than to shutdown service delivery in Kogi.
Adebayo hinted further that “Should ALTON members including all telecoms networks and Internet Services Providers (ISPs) shutdown their services in response to the harsh tax regime in the state, all the eight states bordering Kogi and the FCT will suffer service blackout”.
Earlier in the year, the chairman of ATCON, Engr Olusola Teniola has made it clear that its members have been suffering a lot in accessing forex as majority of technical components fall inside the 41 items banned for easy access to forex by the apex bank.

Both industry pressure groups say so far Infrastructure Companies (Infracos) are finding it hard to have access to RoW, chances of broadband penetration remain slim which means that internet access nationwide as promised by government will remain a mirage.
In the contrary, the Next Level campaign guide noted that efforts of the administration in the past few years enabled internet access and promoted local content, especially among Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government.
Continuing, it added that “following the Vice President’s visit to Silicon Valley, U.S., where he visited the headquarters of some leading global technology companies, he met Google officials”.
“He met with Google Chief Executive Officer, Sundar Pichai, and its top executives in July and the global tech company now provides free Wi-fi access in several public places in Nigeria.
“This initiative will bridge societal gaps by providing free internet access to some of the poorest in the society.
“It will grant access to information, tools of education, improved business and job opportunities and expansion for many Nigerians.”
The document also claimed that “the free internet access was in line with the administration’s plan to improve the country’s technology sector and leverage on the gains that a data-driven digital economy could offer”.
The Next Level document averred that “Information Communication Technology (ICT) was the new oil”, adding that oil revenues were no longer sustainable”.