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Telecoms Operators Flay Police Over Illegal Closure Of Infrastructure

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The Association of
Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) has decried the use of the police by government agents to illegally seal telecommunications Base Transceiver Stations (BTS).
This is contained in a statement signed by the Chairman of ALTON, Mr Gbenga Adebayo, which was obtained by The Tide on Friday in Lagos.
The statement said that the Criminal Justice (Miscellaneous) Provisions Act, CAP. C39, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 had clearly criminalised the illegal sealing of telecommunications base stations.
It said that the law had criminalised the destruction and damaging of infrastructure, including telecommunications infrastructure, of which the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had issued a number of public information in this regard.
“We are aware that in Section 6, the police is empowered to arrest anyone sealing off telecommunications base stations.
“It is a contradiction for the law to empower the Police to protect infrastructure and for the same Police to be used to illegally deny access to property they are enjoined to protect.
“Section 1 (1) (b) criminalises the obstruction of communications, hence denying access to sites using the police ultimately results in obstruction, a process which is to be prevented by the police.
“We, therefore, urge the IGP to kindly direct all Police Commands to strictly enforce taxation demands, pursuant to court orders only.
“Given the need to sensitise the populace on this unlawful act of sealing BTS, the NCC also published a Public Notice where the aforementioned Act was reiterated and the consequences of sealing a BTS was elaborated,’’ it quoted Adebayo as saying.
The statement said that telecommunications development in Nigeria was playing an integral role in the nation’s march towards a greater country
It added that telecommunication services had greatly improved the quality of life of Nigerians, as a people, from basic voice calls, to internet services and numerous value added offers by the operators.
According to the statement, in spite the above, operators still face a number of environmentally-related problems, in particular, on issues of interference with the smooth operations of telecommunications services.
It said that one of such interferences was the incidence of closure of operators’ BTS sites and other telecommunications infrastructure on the excuse of non-payment of arbitrarily-imposed taxes and levies.
The statement said that such taxes and levies imposed by States and Local Government authorities, in the name of Internally generated revenue was having adverse effects on the quality of services rendered by telecommunications operators.
It noted that the Taxes and Levies (Approved list for Collection) Law of 1998 stated in its Section 2 (1) that members of the Nigeria Police shall only be used to collect taxes in accordance with Tax laws.
It also provided that no person, including a tax authority, shall use road blocks to collect taxes.
“A reading of Section 2 (1) and (2) together can only lead to the conclusion that the police should only intervene in the collection of taxes pursuant to lawful order.
“We hereby request that the IGP kindly directs all Police Commands to strictly enforce taxation demands pursuant to court orders only.
“In the case of telecommunications companies, such orders should only be orders of the Federal High Court, since telecommunications is on the exclusive legislative list,’’ the statement quoted Adebayo as saying.

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Traders Protest FG’s Move To Restore Festac Town

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The move by the Federal Government to restore Festac Town in Lagos to its original status has sparked up protest among traders occupying Agboju Amuwo Planks and Building Materials Market.
The traders on Wednesday, protested at the FHA office in Festac Town against the demolition of their market, following the demolition of illegal structures by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) ahead of the restoration. 
The Tide recalls that there was a petition to the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, in 2020 about illegal structures that had taken over Festac Town.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting on the restoration of Festac town organised by FHA, last year, its South-West Zonal Manager, Mr Akintola Olagbemiro, said, “This year, we commenced the restoration of Festac town, following the consent judgement from the court against illegal occupants of Festac land.
“Our action is to save the residents from the insecurity that has taken over the entire Festac town as a result of illegal structures everywhere”.
The chairman of allottees of First Gate to Third Gate, Mr Kole Olatunji, in his remarks at the meeting said the land from First Gate to Third Gate was allocated between 1985 and 1999, noting that with the consent judgment, original owners of the land as allocated should take over their plots.
But the chairman of plank market, Muhammed Bello, protested the seven-day notice given to traders to vacate the place without alternative arrangements.  
Bello said: “How do they expect us to remove our wares in seven days?
“What we want is that they should allow us to remain there and we will pay whatever amount they ask us to pay”.
Speaking in the same vein, the chairman of Cane Chair and Furniture Association, Emmanuel Okoye said: “We need freedom. Let them tell us where they want us to stay. That place was swampy. We filled the place with several millions of Naira which we got as loans.
“We also rely on loans to do our business. Whatever the government wants us to pay; we are ready to pay to remain there. We have been there for 27 years. What we lost to the demolition is over N300 million”.

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Fuel Tanker Explosion Kills Five, Injures Two In Ogun

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No fewer than five persons were on Wednesday burnt to death, while two others sustained first degree of injury in a fuel tanker explosion at Ajilete, along Owode-Idiroko road, in Yewa South local government area of Ogun State.
Eyewitness accounts revealed that a truck bearing 33,000 litres of petroleum product was descending the steep portion of the road when its tank suddenly detached from truck’s body and tumbled to the ground with a bang.
The explosion, the witnesses said, killed five persons on the spot, while two other persons were injured.
The Tide learnt that the seven victims were all residents of the area where the accident occurred.
Confirming the incident, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Commander, Idiroko Unit, Akinwunmi Olaluwoye, said five deaths were recorded in the accident which occurred at about 8.15 am on Wednesday. 
According to him, the remains of the dead had been claimed by their families.
He disclosed that a bus and a motorcycle were also caught in a web of the explosion and razed.
He said, “no vehicle rammed into the tanker. The tank dropped off from the back of the tanker and exploded. The number of persons involved are seven; five dead, two injured.
“The driver had taken away the head of the truck as at the time we got there. But we have allowed the police to take charge and handle that aspect”.

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Travellers To Access $4,000  As CBN Boosts Forex Supplies

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Nigerians travelling abroad can now access a maximum amount of $4,000 foreign exchange from banks following the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) announcement to increase forex supplies.
The CBN had said in a recent statement that it had concluded plans to increase the amount of foreign exchange allocated to banks to meet legitimate needs.
This followed the warning by the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, to Deposit Money Banks to desist from denying customers the opportunity to purchase foreign exchange.
The purposes to access forex included Personal Travel Allowance, Basic Travel Allowance, tuition fees, and medical payments as well as Small and Medium Enterprises transactions or for the repatriation of Foreign Direct Investment proceeds, the CBN had stated.
Sources from some of the banks said those travelling on business trips could also access a maximum amount of $5,000 for each trip.
At a virtual Bankers’ Committee meeting last week, the bankers discussed how the CBN intended to assist with forex to ensure availability for the upcoming summer period and the return of students to school in September.
The CBN also said the BDCs would continue to have their weekly allocations.
The committee observed that the rates were going up.
It stated, “The CBN has said that all the banks must make availability at all times and anyone who wants to buy BTA, PTA, medical fees, student school fees and all the eligible invisible purchases to ensure that Nigerians are not forced to go and queue in the parallel market.
“So what the Central Bank is doing is to encourage all banks to make sure that there is available forex at all times, and that his information should be communicated on all our platforms.
“We are asking our customers to come to the branches and for BTA, for example, present the required documents, which are basically your international passport, your visa, your valid ticket and fill up the form in the bank.
“And what we have been instructed to do is ensure that we don’t turn anybody back and that we should request from the Central Bank once we exhaust the forex that we have.
“The idea is to have a hitch-free summer period and the resumption for children to go back to school. The idea is to ensure there is less pressure on the forex and then the rates will come down”.
Speaking during the virtual meeting, the Group Managing Director, Access Bank, Herbert Wigwe, said, “I think again as part of the Central Bank’s role in terms of price stability and the need to support small and medium enterprises, there was highlight of the need for banks to go and support SMEs who import small raw materials for them to set up their businesses”.
The Managing Director, Ecobank, Patrick Akinwuntan, said, “All banks are available to ensure forex need is met.”
Managing Director, Sterling Bank, Abubakar Suleiman, said the CBN had provided sufficient foreign exchange to meet the needs of all legitimate Nigerian travellers and therefore, the idea of going to any other market should not arise at all.

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