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Pantami 44

Endless wait for NASS on CNI Bill forcing FG to invoke Executive Order

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…As Minister gives update on resolution of RoW issues with governors

Strong indication has emerged revealing that the Federal Government may have shifted attention away from the National Assembly to invoking Presidential Executive Order for the protection Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) which cut across sensitive telecoms installations.

This stemmed from the remarks made by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, weekend at a media parley and press briefing which took place at Treasure Suites, Maitama, Abuja.

Responding to questions from journalists after the main briefing, the Minister revealed that the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) was vetting content of the proposed Executive Order on Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) Protection, which had been one of the key demands of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to ensure a halt to rampant vandalism of telecommunications infrastructure.

The Minister said he was confident that President Buhari will sign the Executive Order soon. He also informed the journalists that ahead of the Order, the police authorities have been directed to locate key telecom facilities for surveillance.

Business Hilights recalls that the immediate past Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the NCC, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, had in Lagos on Wednesday, December 18, 2019, called on the National Assembly to deploy the same speed it used in delivering the just signed 2020 national budget in the legislative work on the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) Bill that had over-stayed with it.

Speaking while declaring open a one-day stakeholders’ consultative forum on regulation of drones deployment in Lagos, the former lawmaker said “The rising cases of vandalism and illegal access to telecoms facilities across the federation by both criminals and some state agencies’ has become a source of concerns for operators’.

“I urge the National Assembly to expedite action in the passage of Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) Bill into law so that rate of vandalism and undue lockdown by some overzealous agencies of state and local governments will end,” the former chairman pleaded.

In an interview, the Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Gbenga Adebayo, had argued that telecoms infrastructure should be seen as critical equipment just like the oil pipelines, as well as PHCN and NITEL (Nigerian Telecommunications Limited) facilities.

He said that the telecommunication industry supports many other economic sectors of the economy and is also the first layer of critical infrastructure for socio-economic development and security and so it is pertinent for telecoms facilities to have first-level protection from the government.

According to him, “Telecommunications development in Nigeria is playing an integral role in the country. Telecommunication services have greatly improved our quality of life as a people. From basic voice call to Internet services to numerous value-added features offered by our members. But despite the progress made, we are still facing a number of environmental problems in particular on the issues of interference with the smooth operations of telecom services.”

On the intractable issue of exorbitant charges by states on Right of Way (RoW) for telecoms services providers, Dr Pantami noted that “I have written to all the governors in Nigeria on the need to comply with the National Economic Council (NEC) resolution on the Right of Way (RoW)”.

According to him, “All the Governors had agreed to the harmonisation on the RoW charges and efforts are being made to ensure the policy is respected”. The RoW charges are the levy paid to state governments for the laying of optic fibre cables by telecoms operators in their delivery of broadband infrastructure across the nation.

It would be recalled that majority of Infrastructure Companies (InfraCos) licensees are yet to lay their cables owing to exorbitant RoW charges slammed on them by several states governments.

Besides, the issue is getting messier as reports have it that some states recently jerked up their fees far beyond the reach of InfaCos.

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