*** Nigeria is Ready for it, almost at the final Stage, FG
***Says 5G has no Link with COVID-19
By Henry Umoru, ABUJA
THE National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno, retd, yesterday expressed serious National security concerns and caution over the deployment of the 5th Generation (5G) Network.
According to him, if wrongly deployed and left in the hands of the wrong persons, it could be a threat to National Security.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja during Senate Investigative hearing on the present status of 5G Network in Nigeria and its Technological impact on citizens, Mongunu who spoke through
his Director of Communications, Bala Fakandu said that (5G) Network will require telecommunications operators in Nigeria to upgrade their equipment to the new technology adaptable (5G) network which if not properly deployed could serve as tools for eavesdropping, cyber-attacks and even espionage by external forces.
The Investigative Hearing was organised by Senator Oluremi Tinubu, All Progressives Congress, APC, Lagos Central led Senate Joint Committee on Communications, Science and Technology, ICT and Cyber Crimes and Primary Health Care and Communicable Diseases.
According to him, the Office of the NSA shared its fears with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) during its initial trial of the technology in the country and expects that the concerns will be properly addressed in the draft national policy when it is ready.
The NSA said: “I will agree with the position of the Minister that we were contacted at the office of the NSA before the deployment of the initial trial of the 5G Network. I can affirm that the trial has taken place and from our assessment, that there has not been approved for a licence to deploy such a facility so that at least we can allay the fears of citizens.
“I am going to talk about National Security concerns. We are aware that the deployment of 5G will come with different types of equipment and so we understand that the stakeholders in the telecommunications industry will make effort to ensure that they upgrade their systems in order to meet up with the new technology.
“But we are concerned about the deliberate vulnerabilities and backdoors within the 5G network equipment.
That is one of the key concerns we have and this will make the infrastructure highly susceptible to eavesdropping, tracking, cyber-attacks, military and industrial espionage and other malicious activities by foreign actors.
We understand these are things that will be put in place particularly in the policy that the Honourable Minister has talked about but I need to emphasise it so that the stakeholders in the telecommunications industry will understand where we are coming from because the national security concerns are the concern of the Office of the National Security Adviser and concern of the President as well.
In that guise, we are going to ensure our own position and we urge the Honourable Minister to carry the office along within the development of the policy so that we could have a robust framework to take care of this areas.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government on its part has told the Senate that Nigeria as a country is prepared and ready for the 5G Network, just as it stressed that the country was at almost the final stage of its realisation and implementation.
Speaking at the hearing, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami said that there was no need for Nigerians to express fears against the backdrop that 5G has no Link with the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
On whether it has a negative impact on the lives and health of citizen; Pantami said all available research including that of the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Telecommunications Union(ITU) has shown there are no adverse health effects.
He said there is no scientific proof linking Covid-19 to the deploy of (5G) technology or indeed any other disease; stressing that the radiation in the current (4G) is more harmful compared to (5G).
According to him, the radiation in the kitchen microwave is more hazardous than the (5G) which he said is an advancement of the (4G, just as he appealed to Nigerians to disregard the myths surrounding (5G) and embrace the technology with open hands.
Pantami said, “We have not gotten there whether we will deploy 5G but we are on track conducting research, investigations, engaging stakeholders and definitely if all issues are addressed, the executive will support the deployment of 5G in Nigeria.
“We are not operating in circles. Nigerian telecommunication sector is part and parcel of the International Telecommunication Union (under the United Nations) where issues of telecommunication technology and its impacts are being discussed.
“Most of them issued their positions based on the research conducted globally. I slightly disagree with the statement made by the Chairman Senate Committee on Science and Technology that WHO will finish its research in 2022. The WHO has conducted its research and this is what they have published. So the report is ready.
“On 29th August 2019 the Nigeria Communications Commission, as a regulator of our telecommunication sector in the country, announced their intention to begin to prove of concept trial in the country.
My attention has been drowning to that. And immediately as a supervising minister and as also enshrined in Section127 and 128 of the constitution and based on the NCC 2003 Act, Section 23, I reached out to the NCC immediately and they briefed me extensively and I advised them to put the process on hold in other to invite more stakeholders to be involved in the process.
“I can report that we also invited all our security institutions to be part and parcel of the trial.
“On the 19th of September, after contacting all stakeholders, the process of a trial to study the impact of 5G in Nigeria was approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria in some selected places. In Abuja, Kano, Lagos, Ibadan, Abekuta and Calabar.
“As we were studying technology, International bodies like ITU and WHO were also studying it.
“On the 25th September 2019, we conducted the first trial of 5G in Nigeria. In other to demonstrate trust and prove leadership by example, I personally pledged to make a trial so if there is any security implication or medical implication, then Isah would be the number one victim.
“And if there is any relationship with COVID-19, I will be the first victim. To date, I have not contracted the virus. And I did a test up to ten times. So I did the trial personally.
“Mr President is very much aware of all these stages from the beginning to where we stopped.
“Part of what we have achieved through the engagement, conducting research, engaging ITU and WHO at the international level, we are in the process of compiling our final position. And most of the compiled position will be part of my draft national policy which will be presented to the Federal Executive Council.
“The position is that we are almost at the final stage. So now, Nigeria is ready for 5G as long as will address the major challenges.”
He noted that so far no negative impacts have been established from the research and trial carried both locally and at the international level, adding, “There is no link between 5G and COVID-19. And there is a relationship between 5G and any disease. The only issue being raised usually is about radiation. But people don’t realise that the radiation of 4G more harmful than that of 5G.
“The radiation of microwave oven at home is more harmful than that of the 5G. The radiation of even the smartphone itself is even more harmful than that of 5G.”
In her remarks, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, APC Lagos Central) , said that all the submissions made, will really put to rest, all the fears earlier entertained by some Nigerians on the deployment of 5G in the country.
Senator Tinubu who noted that the Committee based on an aggregate of views expressed by the critical stakeholders at the hearing, will submit a report to Senate in that direction, said, “However just like the proponents of the 5G claim, that the network is the best thing that has happened in the global telecommunication world, there have also been widespread reactions against its deployment especially as it borders on its probable negative health effects on humans.
“Claims and counterclaims have emerged on the possibility of the technology causing injury to human health. As a result, there were protests in various nations of the world including Nigeria and in some instances violent demonstrations.
The concerns raised include increased cancer risk, cause of COVID-19, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radiations, genetic damages, structural and functional changes in the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders and negative impact on general wellbeing in humans.
“These and other considerations bordering on human health necessitated the Senate in fulfilling its constitutional responsibility and obligations to mandate its four standing committees to thoroughly investigate the status of 5G Network in Nigeria and its technological impact on Nigerian citizens.”