31 December 2012

Nigeria: Subscribers Call for Law to Protect Telecoms Equipment

The National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) on Monday urged the federal government to expedite plans on a bill to recognise telecommunications equipment as critical national resource.

Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, NATCOMS President, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that the call was necessary following the spate of destruction of telecoms infrastructure in some parts of the country.

The federal government, had in February, said it was working through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the private telecommunications operators to develop an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure protection bill.

Mrs. Omobola Johnson, Minister of Communications Technology, who gave the hint, had said the time was ripe to declare ICT infrastructure a national resource which should be protected just like railway and electricity infrastructure were protected by law.

She had promised that the bill, seeking to protect the existing ICT assets from willful or accidental damage, would be ready before the end of 2012. Ogunbanjo said it was regretful that so far, the plan had not become a reality.

He said that just like the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) poles, telecoms installations were critical national infrastructure that should not be left in the hands of operators alone.

"Subscribers find the growing targeted attacks on telecom equipment, infrastructure and telecom workers worrisome.

"Subscribers are calling on the Minister of Communication Technology to hasten work on a bill that will declare ICT equipment as critical national infrastructure protected by law," he said.

Ogunbanjo said the government should provide a secure environment for network operators to enable them provide desirable quality of services to the over 100 million subscribers.

The NATCOMS president said that the government should address the problems of power as well as multiple taxation and regulations that were affecting the service providers.

"Government cannot fold its arms and watch the disruption in our networks as this may affect the security of lives and livelihood of Nigerians that depend on the services of these operators.

"Although issuing fines to the operators will make them sit up, such will not solve the epileptic power problem or the incidences of multiple taxation and conflicting regulations in the sector.

"Subscribers are still demanding for quality of service and value for their money and the government needs to improve the operating environment for the telecoms operators to thrive," Ogunbanjo said. According to him, it is also worrisome that network operators still lack the capacity to cope with the increasing call traffic generated by subscribers.

Ogunbanjo advised the operators to also upgrade their network to meet the growing number of subscribers.

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