The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says it has mobilised the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to protect the equipment and installations of leading digital mobile operator, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited.
This followed the picketing of the MTN head office in Lagos and other offices in different parts of the country on Monday by the leadership of the Nigerian Labour Congress led by its President, Ayuba Wabba, over alleged anti-labour practices by the telecommunications service provider.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Wednesday, the NCC said the dispute between the telecom firm and the labour union had resulted in the vandalism of telecommunications equipment, thereby prompting the regulatory agency’s intervention to save the country’s critical infrastructure.
The statement read in part, “In the wake of the labour dispute between MTN, one of its major licensees, and labour, and the protests that have resulted in the vandalism of telecom infrastructure, the NCC on Monday night activated the Memorandum of Understanding with the NSCDC to protect the switch stations and Base Transceiver Stations belonging to MTN and other telecom operators.
“The commission had contacted ACG Iyogho of the NSCDC on the matter and directed MTN to liaise with the NSCDC on the issue of the picketing by the NLC and the reported destruction of telecom infrastructure across the country.
“The NCC has also briefed the security agencies on the developments, particularly the implications of the attempt to shut down the Ojota switch station. A collapse of the telecommunications grid is likely if these attacks on MTN and other telecom facilities are not abated.”
Telecom infrastructure had been classified as critical national infrastructure by the Cyber Security Act domiciled with the Office of the National Security Adviser.
According to the NCC, its leadership led by Prof Umar Danbatta has opened talks with other critical stakeholders through the office of the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders’ Management, Mr Sunday Dare, on the issue.
The NCC stated that the leadership of the Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria and Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria was working with the regulatory agency on the developments.
It added that it was working behind the scene to protect telecom infrastructure and minimise service disruption in order not to compromise national security, quality of service and to protect over 160 million subscribers.
The NCC and the NSCDC had on November 22, 2017 signed a MoU on the protection of telecommunications infrastructure.
With the signing of the MoU, the NSCDC designated a desk charged with the responsibility of monitoring telecommunications infrastructure across the country.
The desk was also charged with the responsibility of arresting culprits vandalising the critical infrastructure, detaining them as well as prosecuting them in courts.
Speaking at the event, the Commandant General of the NSCDC, Abdullahi Muhammadu, had said the protection of critical national infrastructure was within the purview of the agency.