By Prince Osuagwu
THE Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has thrown a bait to the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC to allow it replicate strategies used in protecting Oil and Gas pipelines nationwide on the telecommunications infrastructure.
Acting Deputy Commandant General (Protection of Critical Infrastructure) Mr. Amos Andekein who led a delegation of NSCDC to the NCC recently, challenged the commission to give the Corps a chance to kick start the protection of the telecom infrastructure which the sector has long been clamouring for.
However, Vanguard gathered that the likelihood of granting the request is high since the meeting was a follow up to the one hosted by the National Security Adviser (NSA) Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd) in December, 2016.
The meeting which Vanguard gathered was specifically called by the NSA, was for both agencies to deliberate on workable ways to protect critical national infrastructure.
Critical national infrastructure
NCC’s Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management Mr. Sunday who represented the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, at the meeting, admitted that deliberations were in line with the desires of both government agencies to work together in protecting critical national infrastructure, like Base Stations, Optic Fibre, Masts among others.
He said that other areas deliberated upon at the meeting was to find a way to nip in the bud, activities of vandals of such infrastructure and as well explain security implications to those trading on pre-registered Subscribers Identification Module (SIM) cards.
He also revealed that the NSCDC men have been manning NCC Emergency Communications Centres (ECC), before now, adding that the NCC was sure that the Corps will support in the protection of the critical infrastructure on the directive of the NSA.
Recall that the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umaru Garba Danbatta recently disclosed, during a road show against vandalization of telecom infrastructure, that his Commission was consulting with law makers to finalize a bill on critical infrastructure protection.
The bill seeks to treat all telecom infrastructure as public property. The road show, was part of urging the national legislature to give an urgent consideration to passing the bill into law so offenders can be prosecuted appropriately.
According to him, the benefits and the useful services the country is currently enjoying were threatened by the spate of vandalization of telecom infrastructure across the country. “We are worried that vandalization of telecom infrastructure is slowing the pace of growth, contributing to poor quality of services “Vandalization of infrastructure comes in several ways. Some vandals cut or destroy cables that provide services across geographical distances or communities.
Some engage in stealing of generators or diesel which are used to power base stations that make services available at all times. “We have situations where local communities or individuals bar technical staff of the service providers from installing equipment or carrying out repair on existing systems. We have situations where people engage in wilful destruction or damage of telecom infrastructure in order to extort money from service providers.
“The industry has continued to lose huge sums of money as a result of vandalization of telecom infrastructure and more importantly, the nation has lost a lot of services as a result of this menace”, he noted.
Several other Information and Communications Technology, ICT stakeholders have called on the government to speed up the policy of protecting telecom infrastructure by declaring it critical national asset.
Among them, is the Chairman of Association of Licensed Telecom operators in Nigeria, ALTON, Engr Gbenga Adebayo.
According to him, telecommunication infrastructure should be seen as social infrastructure which 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.