Why Igbo states is low on telecom infrastructure


South Eastern part of Nigeria continues to lag behind in telecom development.

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At least, recent data statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics confirmed so.

The Bureau said that in terms of telecommunications development and broadband penetration, the region with five states including Abia, Anambra, Imo, Enugu and Ebonyi, took last in the third quarter of 2023.

In the active voice subscription per zone, NBS disclosed that North Central had 38,470,115, North West – 40,020,788, North East – 26,379,334, South West – 67,585,980, South-South was 26, 924,411 while South East had 22,389,255.

Also on active internet subscription, North Central – 27,813,199, North West – 28,687,940, North East – 18,931,895, South West- 47,559,081, and South-South – 20,002,645 and South East was 15,967,753.

But, this is not even surprising. It has remained the trend over the years.

For instance, in Q1 2022, active voice subscription per zone, North Central – 37,429,197, North West – 37,329,859, North East – 19,379,078, South East – 19,569,496, South West – 56,606,404

South-South – 29, 241, 597.
Also, active internet subscription per zone in Q1 2022 were as follows: North central – 27, 476,820, North West – 26,912,492, North East – 14,142,290, South East- 13,982,821, South West- 41,988,986 and South-South – 21,059,374
The trend is also the same in 2021.

According to NBS, internet usage in Nigeria in quarter 04, 2021 South Eastern Nigeria recorded 13.7 million users, which is the lowest among the states, except North East.

NBS data shows that in the quarter under review, South West region has the highest online users with 41.7 million followed by North Central with 26.6, North West has 25.4 users.

Others are South-South which has 20.8 million internet users and troubled North East which has 13.8 million.
However, many variables are contributing to this poor outcome.

Industry experts and technology analysts are of the opinion that inability of the state governors in the region to eliminate bottlenecks hindering digital access is responsible.

Chief among the issues is the high right of way, RoW charges.

They also said that high population and low business interest also play a big role in the low data for the zone.

Right of Way charge is a levy paid by telecommunication companies to state governments, permitting telecommunication companies to dig up the roads and install telecommunications hardware such as optic fibre cables that carry internet traffic.

As it stands, Anambra State is the only state in the zone that has started the implementation of zero charges on RoW per linear meter.
This means that the state is currently the only state in the region to implement the waiver of the per linear meter RoW charges as opposed to the N145 per linear metre recommended by the National Economic Council, NEC in 2020.

The Special Assistant to Anambra State Governor, Prof Charles Soludo on Information and Communication technology on ICT, Mr. Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata confirmed this.

In 2018, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, called for a review of the Memorandum of Understanding, MoU signed between the Federal Government, State Governments and telecom operators on the RoW. According to the then Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Umar Danbatta, this is because State Governments have placed multiple taxes on telecom operators, resulting in poor quality of service.

According to a report in 2020, over 14 governors hiked the RoW fees in their states to between N3, 000 and N6,000. For instance, the Lagos State Government insisted that it will continue to charge telecom companies N1, 500 per linear metre. According to the state agency, the RoW charge pegged at N145 by the NEC in 2013 was merely a suggestion.

For emphasis, at N145 RoW, a telecoms company will be able to complete 10 percent of the distance (1km instead of 10km). This, in turn, will significantly reduce the broadband penetration speed across Nigeria.

But, following a meeting between then Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, there was an agreement to reverse RoW charges for telcos to N145 per linear metre. So far, this has been implemented by Kaduna, Katsina, Plateau, Ekiti, Kwara and Anambra States.

Right of way

Meanwhile, the EVC of NCC that Dr Aminu Maida said that moving forward, NCC is going to push an advocacy agenda to ensure every region is connected with fibre the basic broadband infrastructure.

Speaking in Lagos recently, he said: “Imagine the economic activity that can be enabled when you are connected with the fibre, I think that’s the approach and thinking we are using, so far we have seen Katsina, Nasarawa and I can I assure you over the next couple of weeks we are going to one of two more and hopefully within the next couple of years we might even forget about what RoW.

Responding to the statistics, a founder and CEO of an Agri-insurance company, Izanu Africa, Comfort Onyaga, said: “One of the things that came to mind is what percentage of the population of South easterners that number represents?

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