FG Mandates IG to Protect Telecoms Infrastructure

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Mohammed Adamu,
Mohammed Adamu

•Plans Executive Order to criminalise vandalism

Emma Okonji

The federal government has written the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, intimating him of the current processing of an Executive Order on Telecoms Infrastructure that seeks to criminalise any vandalism against telecoms infrastructure.

The letter, dated December 23, 2019, and signed by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, mandated the Inspector General of Police to provide protection for the identified critical telecoms infrastructure nationwide pending the pronouncement of the Executive Order by President Muhammadu Buhari, which is expected soon.

The issue of willful destruction of telecoms infrastructure like Base Station Transceiver (BTS), commonly known as Base Station, coupled with the incessant closure of telecoms sites by government agencies, while enforcing payment of certain taxes that are alien to telecoms operators, have lingered for so long, leading to disruptions of telecoms services in some parts of the country, where such acts are prevalent.

Although telecoms operators have complained severally and have had course to challenge government agencies over incessant closure of telecoms sites, the situation has persisted, as most state governments see it as a means of beefing up their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

The letter to the Inspector General of Police, is expected to compel the police to swing into action in protecting telecoms infrastructure, pending the pronouncement of an Executive Order on Telecoms Infrastructure.
Part of the letter, which was obtained by THISDAY yesterday, reads: “Following my meeting with His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday, December 16, 2019, I wish to hereby convey the directive of Mr. President that the Nigeria Police Force should provide protection for identified critical telecommunications infrastructure across the country.

The Nigerian telecoms industry depends on a number of infrastructure that play a critical role in the smooth delivery of telecoms services. “These are now known as Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) because of the important role that they play in enduring security and in the delivery of other essential services. These infrastructures are identified as telecoms towers/sites, fibre optic cables, telecoms switch stations, telecoms backup batteries and telecoms armoured cables.

“In order to recognise and protect the critical national infrastructure, the federal government has been working on the Executive Order that will criminalise any act of vandalism against such infrastructure. The Executive Order is being processed by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari.”

Reacting to the issues of willful destruction of telecoms infrastructure across the country, coupled with the incessant closure of telecoms sites by government agencies, the Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, told THISDAY that the planned pronouncement of the Executive Order on Telecoms Infrastructure, was long overdue, owing to the importance of telecoms infrastructure in national development.

Citing cases of arbitrary closure of telecoms sites by government agencies, Adebayo said:
“Last year, Kogi State Internal Revenue Service, with the instruction of the state government, shut down several base stations in the state, which invariably affected several telecoms sites in nine neighboring states, including the federal capital territory.
He added that incessant closure of telecoms sites would lead to total communications blackout that would affect telecoms service delivery.

“As a result of the action by Kogi State Government, our members were unable to refuel power generators in these sites, a situation that led to outage of over 70 sites including hub sites across parts of Kogi State,” Adebayo added.

He listed some of the taxes imposed on telecoms operators by government agencies, to include: ecological tax, generator emission tax, waste management tax and Right of Way (RoW) tax, among others.

The situation, according to Adebayo, has not only slowed down expansion and growth of telecoms operations in the country, but has distorted service quality rendered by the telecoms operators across networks.