Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar
By Emma Okonji, Ibrahim Shuaibu and Paul Obi
Telecommunications operators in the country Friday rose from a meeting in Lagos with a resolve that the attacks on their facilities in Northern parts of the country would not deter them from providing services to their customers.
This is as the security agencies in Kano have deployed anti-terrorism squads and other undercover men to guard telecommunication facilities which were damaged through attacks, which the Police said did not cause “serious damage.”
Also, the National Communications Commission has while lamenting the attacks called for the speedy passage of the Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill into law to ensure protection of facilities and expressed anger at current level of vandalisations.
The operators agreed to provide services, contrary to speculations that they might shutdown their operations in some parts of the North where telecoms facilities were attacked and destroyed by gunmen few days ago but however stated that full and normal services would not be restored in the affected areas pending assurance of protecting the facilities.
Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo who spoke with THISDAY shortly after the meeting, said “We are not deterred by the attacks on our facilities. We will still offer services to our esteemed customers, but we also value lives and will not want to endanger the lives of our site engineers by deploying them to restore services immediately. We will rather wait to receive safety report from the police that is currently protecting telecoms facilities in the Northern part of the country as directed by the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar.”
Adebayo, who frowned at the attacks, said those involved were also attacking government by their actions.
He said operators were still counting their losses and that the exact amount lost to the attacks, runs into several millions of dollars.
Gunmen had carried out attacks on telecoms facilities in some northern states of the country, destroying telecoms facilities, especially Base Transceiver Stations (BTS).
Reacting to the attacks, Corporate Services Executive of MTN, Mr. Akinwale Goodluck, in a statement, said the attacks by unknown persons had caused service challenges in parts of the North as sensitive hub sites had also been affected.
“We confirm that like all the other major telecommunications operators, some of MTN’s installations in Northern Nigeria have been damaged by unknown persons. As far as we are aware, there were no fatalities as a result of these attacks and we are receiving full co-operation from the relevant government security agencies” he said.
Official of the Kano state police command who spoke on condition of anonymity disclosed that the Inspector-General of Police had directed for the set up special units in the police to ensure the safety of telecommunication equipment and installations.
Speaking to journalists Friday in Abuja on the incident, the Director of Public Affairs in NCC, Tony Ojobo said: "this afternoon received a formal report of the vandalisation of some base stations in North Eastern Nigeria. Details of the affected base stations will be forwarded to the commission at a later date following a comprehensive audit. However, since this is a security matter, an official report has been made to the relevant security agencies who are on top of the situation.
“But of course, it is important to mention that this is a security matter and we don’t have oversight on security. But we believe that government is looking into that and that also underscores the need for the quick passage of the Telecommunication Infrastructure bill, making telecommunication infrastructures critical national infrastructure.”