To unlock the fullest benefits of undersea cables landing in Nigeria, the government should declare telecoms vandalism “a criminal offence,” Emeka Oparah, Airtel Africa Vice President, says.
The Google-backed Equiano undersea cable, which was launched in Nigeria this month, has joined a growing number of undersea cables that have reached the nation’s shores, including SAT3, MainOne, Glo1, ACE, and WACS, among others.
Technology Times review of official data shows that as of February 2022, Nigeria had 198,123,431 active phone lines; 144,056,812 internet connections, and 78,082,273 (40.91%), numbers that combine to reflect the growing connectedness of the vibrant telecoms market.
The Cost of Telecoms Vandalism
“While telecommunications companies are investing heavily in undersea cables to connect Africa to the global information superhighway,” the Airtel Africa VP says in a LinkedIn post that “vandalism and fiber cuts (and insufficient electricity) have greatly militated against the terrestrial connections.”
For Oparah, “Governments should make it a criminal offense to damage telecommunications infrastructure. That way, criminals and construction companies will think again before damaging those cables and fiber optic rings!”
The Airtel Africa VP says the African continent “is the future of the world, the last kingdom. The internet will power the emancipation of the continent and empower the teeming population of youths to take charge of the economy and leadership in less than 25 years, citeris paribus!!!”
Oparah’s call comes in the wake of several concerns raised by telecoms operators, industry pressure groups, and regulators over the rising spate of telecoms infrastructure vandalization across the country.
Just this month, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says that telecoms consumers in the country “have a major role to play in complementing efforts being put in place to ensure effective protection of telecommunications infrastructure.”
Effective protection of telecoms infrastructure has become important to sustain and improve on the quality of service delivery by the service providers, the telecoms regulator says.
Amina Shehu, NCC Zonal Operations Director, while speaking at a sensitization programme in Wannune, Tarka Local Government Area of Benue State, says the problem vandalism causes to telecoms infrastructure often results in poor quality of service delivery to end-users.
“One of the major challenges to the quality of service that the operator provides to you is vandalism of telecom infrastructure, such as base transceiver stations (BTS). Others are theft, and hostility from some host communities, which have continued to pose a major setback to the industry. Therefore, it is imperative for the public to regard telecom facilities as collectively-owned infrastructure that are crucial and essential for the provision of efficient and acceptable telecom services. The more reason these facilities need to be adequately protected,” Shehu says.
Aside from the role of the law enforcement agencies in protecting telecoms infrastructure, the NCC Zonal Operations Director says that “the consumers, who are the subscribers and ultimate users of telecom services, have an obligation to do everything to protect telecoms infrastructure in their environment. These include the base transceiver stations (BTS), the underground fibre optic cable, as well as associated infrastructure.”