Isiaka Ibrahim, member of the House of Representatives, has called for a review of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA), which guides operations and regulations in the country’s telecommunications sector.
But telecommunications companies in Nigeria and the apex regulator are urging the National Assembly to designate ICT infrastructure as critical to make vandalism of such infrastructure punishable by law.
Continuing with his argument, Ibrahim, who is also a member of the House Committee on Communications, said the 16-year-old law had become archaic and not in tune with the realities of today’s telecommunications, hence, the need for a review.
He said the Act, which came into force in 2003, was due for review in view of the dynamism in technology world.
“We are elected to make laws for the good of the people and we are waiting for the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to bring a proposal for the amendment of the NCA because it has become old and needs to be fine-tuned in line with current realities,” he said.
However, reacting to the call, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, chairman of NCC said the sector was more concerned about the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) Bill, which has been before the National Assembly for over two years.
Durojaiye, once a lawmaker, said the review of the NCA may not be necessary now as laws are made to last long.
“The National Assembly needs to first of all look at the Critical National Infrastructure Bill, which has been before them for over two years now. We need to protect the telecommunications infrastructure first before talking about changing our law. The act of wilful vandalism of telecommunications equipment must be criminalised and that is why we want the National Assembly to consider this first and pass the CNI Bill into law,” the NCC chairman said.
Several telecoms stakeholders had before now called on the government to come up with a policy to protect telecom infrastructure by declaring it critical national asset.
Among them was Engr Gbenga Adebayo, chairman of Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON).
According to him, telecommunication infrastructure should be seen as a critical infrastructure that makes vandalisation of such infrastructure a security risk highly punishable by law.
He recalled that there used to be a law against stealing of NITEL infrastructure and that helped in no small measure in protecting the assets of the company.
With the delay of the CNI bill, the ALTON chairman also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to issue an executive order proclaiming telecoms services as critical national security and economic infrastructure as prescribed by the Cybersecurity Act 2015.
Adebayo noted that the telecom industry supported many other sectors of the economy.
“We are also the first layer of critical infrastructure for socio-economic development and security. It is pertinent to state that unless telecoms facilities have first level of protection by government, it will be difficult to provide uninterrupted services to the citizenry,’’ he noted.
Also speaking, Olusola Teniola, president, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), called on the Nigeria Police Force, National Security Adviser to the President and other security agents to assist the industry in protecting of critical Infrastructure that ICT infrastructure is now under.
“This will help improve QoS and reduce the costs of repairs in the industry to a nominal level,” he said.
The ATCON president noted that the infrastructure that was being rolled out for support broadband services needed to be fully protected from vandalism, theft, and destruction and therefore the enforcement of the CNI under the cybercrime bill needs to be enacted without any further delay.
According to Teniola, when base stations are shut down wilfully and telecom facilities are vandalised without bringing the culprits to book, not only quality of service is affected but investor confidence is eroded.
“We cannot achieve the national broadband target or improve quality of service with non-implementation of laws meant to protect facilities and infrastructures that are deemed to be national assets. This is another challenge that has impeded the growth of the sector in the sense that some miscreants have turned it to their businesses to destroy the telecom masts and towers.
“The cybercrime law treats telecoms infrastructure as a critical national infrastructure in Nigeria, but we are worried that nobody is implementing it,” he said.