The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has warned that it is criminal offence and against the law for states to shut down telecommunication base transceiver stations (BTS).
Deputy- Director, Legal and Regulatory Services of the commission, Giwa Mohammed, stated this at the North-Central stakeholders’ parliament with relevant agencies in charge of telecommunications matters in Lokoja, Kogi state.
It would be recalled that the Kogi state internal revenue agency had sealed up BTS around the state, due to unpaid levies by telecom operators, which in turn affected millions of telecom users across nine states.
Mohammed said that looking at the monetary impact of the decision of the Kogi state government, Nigeria would have lost billions of Naira during that period, adding that the security consequences also cannot be overlooked.
He said: “Saying no one has the right to shut down telecom facilities is the position of the law. It is not something much about NCC but it’s just that we have thrown out what the law says. The cybercrime Act has already been there that telecom infrastructure is made national infrastructure. There are also existing laws that makes it illegal for any agency or any person to shutdown base stations or telecom infrastructure. So we are just stating the position of the law.”
However, speaking at the event, a legal practitioner and professor of commercial law, Abiola Sanni, disagreed with the position of the commission.
He maintained that states could seal off telecom stations under certain circumstances. According to him, base stations which are dangerous to health of the residents could be shut down by the states provided it is done transparently.
Sanni however, warned against discriminatory enforcement of law against only base stations
He added that the solution to the face-off between the states and telecom operators is to have one revenue agency per level of government and uniform right of way fee.
This, according to him will eliminate the issue of multiple taxation and ensure credibility in the taxation process.
Also, Head of Operations, Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gholahan Awonuga, disclosed that it has directed it members to shun any base station sealed by the state government.