Nigeria’s Ministry of Communications Technology has initiated a Smart States initiative aimed at reducing Right of Way (RoW) fees and standardizing state levies and taxes on information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure. By eliminating arbitrary charges and eradicating multiple taxations across the country, the initiative is expected to spur infrastructural development across the country.

“The initiative is based on the premise that engaging those in authority at the state and federal level to address the issue of multiple taxations impeding the rollout of critical infrastructures will enable speedy deployment of critical infrastructure,” read a statement from the ministry.

“Through the initiative, the ministry is helping to ensure that effective measures are adopted to remove arbitrary charges and eradicate multiple taxations across the nation to enable faster deployment ICT infrastructure across the country” the document further stated.

It added that other benefits to this initiative include standardized pricing on right of way, taxes and levies, thereby increasing the predictability of cost for infrastructure development in the ICT sector.

Following this development, the Ministry of Communications Technology has declared five Nigerian states including Abuja, Bayelsa, Cross River, Lagos and Ondo as Smart States after they signed a memorandum of understanding with the ministry towards improving ICT growth. While revealing this, Dr Omobola Johnson, Minister of Communications Technology, added that Anambra, Delta, Gombe and Osun states have also agreed to become Smart States.

Dr Johnson also disclosed that Lagos had reduced the cost of RoW by 85 percent, while Bayelsa currently stands at 50 percent. She said the five states have equally reduced levies and taxes on telecommunications infrastructure by as much as 50 percent and will be creating a single agency that will collect fees on behalf of the government in the respective states.

The key rationale for this initiative was to fulfil Nigeria’s quest to evolve into a digital economy and Minister Johnson asserted that this goal may be derailed except more state governments sign up with the ministry. According to her, the issue of multiple taxation impedes the development of critical infrastructure across Nigeria, and this initiative was a sure way to address it.

A smart city leverages digital technologies to boost the quality of life of its inhabitants, and also to reduce costs and resource consumption. In other parts of the world, the rationale for smart cities is hinged on the need to stem emerging concerns like climate change as well as to facilitate economic restructuring and ease pressures on public finances.

By Emmanuel Iruobe

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