Telecoms Operators Threaten to Shut Down Operations over Attacks


Emma Okonji

Following this week’s attack on MTN facilities and staff across different locations by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), coupled with other attacks on telecoms facilities emanating from government agencies across the country, telecommunication operators have called on the federal government to intervene in order to avoid collapse of the country’s telecoms system.

They equally threatened that if such unguarded attacks persist without control, they may be forced to shut down their facilities across the county before they are invaded and destroyed.

The Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, gave the warning in a statement, following the picketing of various MTN offices around the country, leading to destruction of telecoms facilities and inflicting of injuries of various degrees on MTN staff.

He said it was inappropriate to attack telecoms facilities across the country with impunity, regardless of the implication of telecoms service disruptions.

He therefore called on the federal government and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to intervene quickly to save the country’s telecommunications system from total collapse.

According to him, “attempts have been made to disrupt the network operations of some of our members through the shut down and vandalisation of critical network activities.”

“The implication of such disruption will lead to severe poor quality of service with attendant natural security implications and far-reaching implications on other services that are dependent on the telecommunication industry.
“We hereby strongly request government and its law enforcement agencies to intervene expeditiously, otherwise we will advise our members to consider preventive shut down in order to avoid further damage to network facilities,” Adebayo said.

He added, “We trust parties will respect each other’s constitutional rights in the interest of our nation Nigeria.”
MTN, whose facilities were affected in the recent picketing on its facilities by the NLC, alleged that members of NLC vandalised its facilities and inflicted injuries on its staff members during the picketing on Monday this week.
Narrating the MTN’s ordeal, its Corporate Relations Executive, Mr. Tobechukwu Okigbo, said officials of the labour congress were at the MTN offices on Monday this week to picket the telecommunications company, but that the telecoms company in a civil manner, invited the officials into its headquarters in Ikoyi, Lagos, in order to reach unified decisions and prevent any form of violence.

“However, the protest became violent and disorganised in different locations as property within MTN premises were vandalised.
“Doors and gates were destroyed and alleged officials of NLC breached the fences to gain forced entry into the premises. In Ikoyi, MTN flag was lowered and the NLC flag was hoisted in its place.

“Numerous staff of the company were injured in the process of the protests and many assumed the roles of human shields over their colleagues, protecting them from the angry protesters,” Okigbo said.
According to him, “The violence and the needless destruction of property are deeply saddening. As always, our primary concern is the safety and well-being of our employees, some of whom were attacked by supposed NLC operatives, and sustained injuries.”

NLC however alleged that MTN had refused to allow its employees participate in union activities, hence the decision to picket the telecoms company, an allegation that MTN had since refuted.

“We do not prevent our employees from associating among themselves as they deem fit and we owe our employees the obligation to ensure they are not compelled to join associations,” Okigbo said.