For Prince Osuagwu, High-tech editor
The Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, says investment in the telecommunications sector has increased to more than $ 80 billion. The Nigerian Statistics Office NBS also explained that foreign capital investment in the sector increased by 725 percent in 2019 from $ 114.43 million recorded in 2018; It was the lowest annual investment in the sector in more than five years.
In their report, when the telecommunications industry experienced a significant 725 percent increase, about $ 829.62 million was invested in the industry, increasing foreign capital to $ 944.05 million.
The sector in 2018 attracted $ 87.25 million in the first quarter; $ 11.12 million in the second quarter; $ 11.42 million in the third quarter and $ 4.64 million in the fourth quarter. But in 2019, the industry experienced a boost in the first quarter of 2019, as foreign investors invested $ 32.35 million in the first quarter; $ 4.5 million in the second quarter; N886.03 million in the third quarter and $ 21.17 million in the fourth quarter.
However, the country runs the risk of losing all of that treasure to insecurity if nothing is done urgently to stop the way telecommunication facilities are bombed, stolen or destroyed.
Operators like MTN, Globacom, Airtel and 9mobile have been screaming at full speed, their facilities are damaged and the perpetrators are free.
A trusted source at MTN Nigeria said the network suffers an average of 30 fiber cuts at different locations, monthly, and that carries a huge financial burden to replace.
According to him, “the issue of fiber cuts, theft of facilities or vandalism is something that no operator would be happy to tell. For us, we suffer an average of 30 fiber cuts monthly from different parts of the country. Most of them are caused by road construction or refurbishment. Some are caused by vandals looking for copper as a raw material to make some products. But, these people have also realized that their efforts are useless because the fiber cable we use today it is based on glass and not copper.
“So we can say that most of our facilities are damaged during road construction. Meanwhile, among all construction companies, only Julius Berger is responsible for telling us where they break our infrastructure. Others will and condemn the consequences. We really need the Executive Order. “
Airtel Nigeria seems to be the worst hit. He deduced that the company, like its counterparts, experiences multiple fiber cuts each time new road construction is carried out in Lagos and other states.
The telecommunications company also lamented the huge cost of reestablishing and redeploying those damaged cables, which will include paying street urchins known as area children, while no one would be responsible for such destruction.
Speaking on the subject, the Director of Corporate Communications and CSR, Airtel Nigeria, Emeka Oparah, said that between July of last year and this February, Airtel experienced 1,022 fiber cuts, which affected its quality of services at that time.
He said it was in addition to several other challenges, including the theft of his generator sets, inverter batteries, and sometimes all of the base station facilities that the grid is based on.
Oparah noted that the government’s declaration of telecommunications infrastructure as critical national infrastructure will go a long way in safeguarding telecommunications infrastructure. According to him, 405 cases of fiber cuts are due to road rehabilitation activities by construction workers, while 617 cases were due to vandalism.
He appealed that the government should come to the aid of telecommunications operators, as these activities result in dropped calls, poor network quality, network congestion and little user experience for subscribers across the country.
Vice President of Network Operations Airtel Nigeria Dr. Adedoyin Adeola corroborated Oparah, saying that telecommunications facilities across the country are repeatedly wrecked, stolen, bombed and destroyed with reckless abandonment, creating a myriad of problems for operators and consumers.
He said: “Telecom operators are plagued with so many problems ranging from security issues to illegal signal boosters. While the network provider is working hard to restore a fiber cut due to vandalism or the activities of road construction workers, it also has to contend with illegal signal boosters, operated by unlicensed operators, that interfere with the quality of the network.
“Then all operators would have to wait incessantly for right-of-way approvals, EIA approvals and other approvals. Also, telecommunications facilities are huge targets for thieves who take batteries from the inverter, generators, diesel, in addition to the other long-standing, daily problems of multiple taxes, community problems, and everything. “
However, Adeola highlighted the efforts that telecommunications companies are making to remedy the situation despite the harsh operating climate. They include improving surveillance through telecommunication fiber routes; proactive engagement with construction companies and communities; and obtain the support of security agencies to access telecommunications sites and infrastructure in critical points or problem areas, among many others.
It also called on the government to urgently declare fiber routes as critical national assets that contain security challenges across the country and improve the availability and quality of public energy.
Last week, the Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy said it got a directive from the President that security forces should increase surveillance around telecommunications facilities, but operators and industry stakeholders say a verbal directive is not sufficient. They believe that an executive order from the President declaring that telecommunications infrastructure is a critical national infrastructure would go much further.
This means that vandalism, destruction or bombing of telecommunication facilities such as base transmission sites, BTS, broadband cables and masts, among others, will attract strict punishment that will not be limited to fines or prison terms, but that could attract capital punishment.
In reaction to the directive, the president of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators in Nigeria, ALTON, Engr Gbenga Adebayo, said that as much as the directive points out that attention is being drawn to the importance of protecting telecommunications facilities, an order Executive declares that telecommunications facilities are national criticisms. Infrastructure will solve the problem.
He said, “Well, we think it is a good development in the right direction. It could be part of the executive order process from somewhere. NCC has memoranda of understanding with almost every law enforcement agency in the country, but what’s surprising is that the same law enforcement agencies are used to shut down infrastructure.
In those days, no one dared to move near the NITEL infrastructure due to the decree protecting NITEL at the time.
We hope that management is one step closer to the Executive Order. The telecommunications sector is becoming the main pillar of the economy now with what is happening in the oil sector. We need this executive order.
“Once again, the board may not resolve the issue. Even when a directive is given, you still see some overly jealous law enforcement officers ignoring it. However, ALTON wishes to congratulate the minister on the good work he is doing, he has done very well in pressing for the reduction of Right of Way charges and has also actively participated in the FCT discussion for better quality service. We encourage you not to relax until the Executive Order is made. All of this in place will facilitate the massive deployment of infrastructure across the country to achieve the new goal of National Broadband.
Meanwhile, one of NITEL’s pioneering engineers and staff, Engr. Titi Omo-Ettu said it could be easy to refer to NITEL on the issue of declaring telecommunications infrastructure as critical national infrastructure, but it may not be too easy to achieve because NITEL was therefore a national asset.
He said: “The situation in NITEL’s days is a completely different kettle of fish. If you said something was government property, then you had sealed protection. Even those of us who were workers were protected beyond the limit.
I was traveling across the country on vacation and my car radiator broke on the road. I just walked into the nearby town booth and showed my P&T engineer ID card. The whole town bent over to help fix my radiator at their expense and also provided lunch for all who were with me as guests of honor. Today is different. MTN and other operators are not government and Nigerians know it. “
Along the same lines, leading industry expert Dr. Chris Uwaje says that the demand for telecommunications infrastructure to be declared a critical national infrastructure is an important part of the 2001 National Information Technology Policy and continued to be an integral part of the National IT Policy, the 2003 NITDA ACT, and also referenced by the 2003 NCC ACT.
He expressed surprise that the issue could still be debated at this time in the country’s technology history.
He said: “I must also note that even an Executive Order is not a Law, but a directive of a President and can be revoked by another President-in-Office. We should be inciting legislators to enact the laws, as they are enshrined in these different laws and have the president emphasize them. “
Why does the industry need protection?
The 725 percent increase in foreign capital investments in 2019 was driven by the acquisition of equipment. MTN and Airtel’s public listing on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) was also a major contributor.
The most interesting thing is that every quarter, MTN, Airtel, Globacom and other telecommunications companies contribute more than N6 trillion to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually, despite the low energy supply, multiple taxes and insecurity that has been consumed
This is even when the communications of more than 190 million Nigerians depend on these networks.