STAKEHOLDERS in the Information and Communications Telecommunications (ICT) have expressed concern over alleged neglect by government of damage being done to telecommunications infrastructure in the country, stressing that the situation is hampering efforts to provide robust ICT services.
According to them, if urgent measures are not taken by government and other regulatory authorities, the about $25 billion investments recorded in the sector so far will be seriously affected.
The stakeholders who gathered yesterday at an ICT forum organised by Titans of Tech with the theme: “State of Infrastructure in Nigeria and the Challenges of Digital Economy” also urged government at all levels, through intelligence report, to avert plan by Boko Haram to bomb telecoms infrastructure so as to cripple effective communications to security operatives in the country.
The President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu, said urgent measures must be taken to avoid more damages to telecoms infrastructure in the country. According him, the industry, which still lacks major infrastructure, cannot afford at this time to loose more of its facilities as a result of security lapses.
Omo-Ettu, an engineer, said government must not treat the threat by the Islamic sect with kid’s glove, but must strengthen its security network to be able to tackle the threat. He said the Boko Haram threat was a challenge to the government, not to the citizens, stressing that government must not hand over the states to hoodlums who deceive the country by their name. “They are not bigger than the government, so it is left for government to use its authority to quash their plans.”
The ATCON’s president, who reiterated the call for the declaration of ICT facilities as ‘Critical National Infrastructure,’ noted that the country was gradually entering into an era when it would need technology to solve majority of its challenges.
To the President of Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Mr. Bayo Banjo, government should not close its eyes to the distress in the sector, stressing that it has become highly imperative to channel more investment to the telecoms industry by ensuring there are right policies to govern operations.
He said the sector requires new infrastructure to be able to meet the challenges of the 21st century as “most present IT equipment are obsolete after five years and since we still use them, it is better we protect them, till new ones come.”
Joining calls for government’s support for the industry, the regulatory affairs officials at both MTN Nigeria and Airtel, Mr. Quasim Odunmbaku and Shola Adeyemi, respectively said telecoms infrastructure must be accorded the critical national infrastructure status if the country must stem the incessant damages to them, especially vandalism, theft, fibre cuts and road damages, among others.
But to the Executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr. Eugene Juwah, represented by a Director in the Commission, Mrs. Mary Uduma, the current infrastructure in the country are not enough to support ICT growth, especially as the country hoped to become an economic bloc by 2020.
Juwah said that while power was critical to telecoms growth, there were observed poor planning and financing, which must be addressed on time.
“There is need to plan ahead. Solid planning is still an issue in Nigeria. Operators still face challenges in getting Right Of Way from all tiers of government. This remains a disincentive to ICT expansion in the country,” he said.
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