A farmer at Imota, Ikorodu Local Government Area, Lagos, Mr Akanji Shakiru Musa, has alleged that Airtel, in attempts to lay fibre optic cables on the road setbacks, dug trenches and destroyed his farmland and crops worth millions of naira.He made this known to Hope For Nigeria after several failed attempts, as he claimed, to communicate with the management of Airtel and get them to take action about the destruction.
“Airtel littered my farm and destroyed farm crops worth over N5 million between February and April 2017,” he said, adding that the telecoms company made no attempt to enquire about the owner of the farmland before digging the trenches.He added that the trenches, which remained uncovered, had caused severe erosion on his farmland, and farm produce such as pineapples, plantains, cassava, maize and all sorts of vegetables were washed away as a result of the recent constant rainfalls, adding, “so many people rely on my farm produce to feed and trade.”
He stated, “Airtel dumped unused fibre optics cables on my farmland, which is contrary to the law of the state on environmental sanitation.”He argued that the road is a federal road, which connects to Ogun and Oyo states, and that “if the state had issued Right of Way (RoW) on a federal road as Airtel claims, the state did not give them the right to destroy farms.
He said that efforts to speak to the management of the company proved abortive, as several correspondences to them received no response, until he employed the services of a legal practitioner to contact the company on his behalf, adding that a similar event had occurred several years ago with another telecom service provider that responded and attended to him within seven days after he had written a letter to them.
However, Airtel has refuted the allegations, saying that the trenches were dug on the setbacks, not on the farm.In a letter signed by the General Manager Litigation and Dispute Management, Joachim Okere, and Senior Manager Litigation, Kingsley Anyiam, it was argued that the “trenches dug were not on Mr. Musa’s farmland but on the road setbacks approved by the Lagos State Government,” adding that “Airtel Networks Limited obtained Right of Way from the state government to lay fibre optics cables in Ikorodu and other areas of the state.”
Airtel denied any liability to the claims of Mr Musa, as the letter stated, saying that “the trenches have been filled and the land restored to its original state,” which stands contrary to Musa’s claims.
The Guardian had earlier reported that the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), in 2014, signed an agreement with Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance and Regulatory Agency (LASMIRA), and the State Ministry of Science and Technology. By that MoU, the approval fee for RoW approvals was slashed by 85% to allow operators build quality network for effective service delivery for citizens of the state. However, this agreement expired in 2016.
The Public Affairs Officer of LASIMRA, Mrs Abosede Martins, referred The Guardian to the Head of Operations, Mr Ahmad Opeifa and promised to revert with necessary information.Ahmad requested details to the location of the farm, saying, “I’ll send men to inspect the farmland and its environment to ascertain the exact location and to be sure if we issued RoW to the telecoms company in that area,” adding that until an inspection is carried out on the area, no concrete information could be given.