There is a clamour for realignment of functions among government agencies for the creation of an enabling environment devoid of some current practices like multiple taxation, permits, etc. How do these issues impact on the operations of telcos?
Osunsedo: Issues around multiple taxation, multiple regulations and multiple regulators remain key challenges of telecom operators. Although the Nigerian Constitution has reserved the right to legislate on environmental issues to the exclusive legislative list, there are still attempts to legislate, regulate and enforce environmental matters by some state agencies in spite of the constitutional demarcations.
Multiple taxation drives up the cost of doing business by significant amounts and multiple regulators hinder smooth operations. So what is required is an alignment between government agencies at both state and federal levels to harmonise taxes and align operations. For example, Lagos State introduced a one-stop shop arrangement for payment of taxes, so you make one payment to the state government for all operations, at just one port of call. This has assisted greatly to eliminate the issue of multiple taxes in Lagos and this has had a great impact in improving efficiency and ease of doing business within the state.
There have been debates over the health status of Base Transceivers Stations sited in residential areas. What is your take on this as a key player in the industry?
Osunsedo: There have been debates on the safety or otherwise of telecom masts and there have also been communication from reliable and independent sources allaying the fears surrounding the towers. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in the past issued a statement to the effect that there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects. The World Health Organisation (W.H.O) through the International EMF Project also stated that while no health effects are expected from exposure to RF fields from base stations and wireless networks, research is still being promoted by the organisation. So as at today, there is no concrete evidence against the safety of masts. I should also note that the NCC has issued guidelines for the installation of telecom masts and equipment and these standards are benchmarked against international requirements so all equipment installed within Etisalat sites meet the minimum safety requirements and on their own do not pose a health hazard.
Despite being a late entrant into the market, Etisalat’s reputation as the fastest growing telecoms company in Nigeria and its innovative way of impacting lives in the last 8 years have been described as astronomical. What can you attribute these positives to?
Osunsedo: At Etisalat, we take great pride in adding value and positively impacting our environment which includes our subscribers and other stakeholders. In our view, our presence in the Nigerian space must be one that is symbiotic. We are aware of the different challenges that exist within the Nigerian environment and the socio economic fissures. This is why we continually seek out platforms to engage, empower and encourage different categories of our stakeholders.
We believe there is a lot of room for corporates in particular to support in bridging the socio-economic divide and we do this using different platforms such as our CSR and the award of prizes such as our Prize for Innovation which rewards creativity in addressing a social challenge, and Etisalat Prize for Literature, which promotes African literature, to mention a few.
Etisalat is the first Nigerian telco to be certified by the International Standards Organization to the 4001: 2004 EMS Standard. What does this mean to the company and its millions of subscribers across the country?
Osunsedo: Indeed we are the first operator in Nigeria and possibly in Africa to get certified to the ISO standard for environmental management. This goes to show that Etisalat is doing many things right particularly in terms of proactive management of environmental concerns. The recent ISO certification is an independent validation that our business is run in such a way that prevents negative impacts on our operational environment. We understand that each action, though done within our immediate environment, has the potential to have a global impact and this is why we have decided to take this on as a key business consideration.
How well developed is the environment management system of Etisalat Nigeria?
Osunsedo: Etisalat’s Environmental Management System (EMS) is quite robust and the ISO certification is proof of that. Getting ISO certified is a process that requires commitment from everyone within an organisation especially from senior management. The journey to where we are began a few years back, with the conceptualisation of the kind of business we wanted to be; and asking ourselves certain pertinent questions from inception: “How do we want to do our business?”, “what are our compliance obligations?”, “what will our approach to ensuring compliance be?” “What can we do better?”
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