Senator Gilbert Nnaji, Chairman, Senate Committee on Communications
By Emma Okonji
The Federal Government has been urged to compel the National Assembly to expedite action on the passage of the Telecoms Bill, which, among other things, seeks the protection of telecoms facilities in the country.
The call was part of a communiqué released at the end of a Critical ICT Infrastructure Protection conference organised by Communications Week, in collaboration with the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), in Lagos.
The conference, which coincided with the gunmen attacks on telecoms facilities in the Northern part of the country, stressed the need for the protection of telecoms facilities and the declaration of the facilities as ‘critical national infrastructure’ that must be guarded.
Following the attacks, President of National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS), Mr. Deolu Ogunbanjo, condemned the action, and called on the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, to prevail on lawmakers to unveil legislation that would protect telecoms facilities and declare such facilities as national assets that must not be tampered with.
The calls for legislation on telecoms facilities rose after the recent attacks on Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) and masts in some Northern states of the country by gunmen.
Speaking on the consequences of the attacks, Ogunbanjo said it would not only affect service quality, but would also lead to loss of jobs and economic loss for the country.
The conference, with the theme: ‘Protecting Telecoms Infrastructure to Ensure Service Quality to Subscribers and Safeguard Investments,’ urged government to set up a task force for the protect ICT infrastructure, and called for confidentiality agreement on communications data that may be released to the public on demand, to ensure maximum protection.
The forum also recommended that government should set up data centres, where information could be accessed from a single source and managed by government.
“No telecoms site should be shut down for any reason because of its consequences on service quality. Offices of erring telecoms operators should rather be closed instead of their facilities,” the participants said, and called for full protection of the interest of consumers as it affects telecoms facilities.
To avoid further attacks on telecoms facilities, the forum suggested the involvement of communities in protecting telecoms infrastructure, as well as a conscious effort to create more awareness on the importance of telecoms facilities to the nation.
Immediate past Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, (NCC), Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, who chaired the conference, said telecommunications services have impacted a great deal on the economy and individuals, and that its facilities must be properly guarded by government, subscribers and the communities.