Airtel asks Nigerian government to make telecoms Critical National Assets

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Airtel Nigeria has asked the Nigerian government to make telecoms Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) in a way that would guaranty special protection of telecoms infrastructure against vandalism and insurgency. All of which are undermining operators’ ability to ensure quality of service.

The operator is also asking government to urgently declare fibre routes as Critical National Assets, address security challenges nation-wide and improve public power availability and quality in order to ensure good health for the troubled telecom sector.

Government has the responsibility to “urgently deal with the menace of vandalism, insecurity and insurgency otherwise the current spate of dropped calls experienced by some telecommunications consumers would continue,” said Airtel’s Director of Corporate Communications & CSR, Emeka Oparah.

Airtel is one of Nigeria’s leading telecommunications services provider. The operator alone recorded 1022 cases of fibre cuts between July 2019 and 11th of February, 2020, said a worried Oparah at a recent media briefing in Lagos.

According to him, 405 cases of the fibre cut were as a result of road rehabilitation activities by construction workers while 617 cases were due to vandalism.

Oparah, therefore, pleaded that the Government should come to the aid of telecoms operators as these activities result in dropped calls, poor network quality, network congestion and poor user experience for telecommunications subscribers across the country.

There are already moves by the federal government to make telecoms come under the CNI range and get states end their multiple tax sieges on telcos. Weeks back, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy warned that states have obligations to protect telecoms infrastructures within their space and must be wary of imposing taxes that are repetitious – constituting a scare for investors.

In Lagos, Oparah urged the federal and state governments to hasten the approval process for right of way for fibre deployment as well as quicken the Environmental Impact Analysis (EIA) approval process, noting that these actions would help solve the problem of network congestion and network failure.

Also speaking during the briefing, the Vice President, Network Operations, Airtel Nigeria, Dr. Adedoyin Adeola, lamented that telecoms installations across the country are repeatedly vandalized, stolen, bombed and destroyed with reckless abandon, creating myriad of problems for the network operators as well as the telecommunication consumers.

“Telecoms operators are plagued with so many problems ranging from security issues to illegal signal boosters. While a network provider is working hard to restore a fibre cut due to vandalism or activities of road construction workers, it also has to deal with illegal signal boosters, which interfere with network quality and operated by unlicensed operators.

“Then, all operators would have to wait endlessly for Right of way approvals, EIA approvals and other approvals. Also, telecoms installations are huge targets for thieves who cart away with inverter batteries, generators, diesels in addition to the other daily and long standing problems of multiple taxation, community issues and all,” he said.

Dr. Adeola also highlighted the efforts telcos are making to remedy the situation despite the harsh operating climate, stating that steps are being taken to improve surveillance across telecoms fibre routes; proactively engage with construction companies and communities; and enlisting the support of security agencies to access sites/telecoms infrastructure in flash points or troubled areas, among many others.

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