by Stanley Azuakola
There are fears that the telecommunications sector in Nigeria, especially in Northern Nigeria will be set back a notch if the recent threat of telecoms operators is followed through. The operators whose facilities were recently attacked by terrorist group, Boko Haram, have warned that they would cut off services in the crises-prone states of the North if the attacks continue.
The attacks, in which some base stations in various states of the North were razed by terrorists, were widely reported last week. In fact, as a result of the attacks, communication through cell phones has been disrupted in Kano.
“It is an attack on subscribers; these are the people that are at the receiving end of the services,” said Gbenga Adebayo, the chairman, Association of Licensed telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON). “These are Nigerians whose lives depend on telecoms services. If it becomes impossible to continue to do business in the face of rising attacks on telecoms sites, operators will naturally suspend operations in the area. This is because beyond base stations, these elements may begin to target telecoms operators’ offices and data centres, among other key infrastructure. That is why it is important that the situation is curtailed before it gets to that point.”
Adebayo disclosed that telecom companies have lost over 25 base stations to the attacks. To grasp the magnitude of this loss, consider that a base station costs between N500 million and N1 billion (depending on its configuration).
The operators have sent reports to the Federal Government, National Communications Commission, as well as security agencies. According to Adebayo, the operators want the FG to be decisive in its fight against the terrorists.
On its part, the JTF said on Saturday that the attacks were designed to disrupt communication services and prevent residents from providing information on the activities of gunmen to the military and the police so that they can protect lives and property.