THE Federal Government yesterday said that the shut down of telecommunications activities in Zamfara state over banditry activities was done at the request of the nation’s security agencies.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, stated this while briefing State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the First Lady’s Conference Room, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The Minister said that the measure did not originate from his ministry.
He explained that when the security agencies proposed it as an effective way to curtail the bandits, the federal government did not object to it.
On whether the shut down will be extended to Katsina, Kaduna and other bandit-infested states, he declined to comment on it because of its security implications.
Pantami, however, explained that government was willing to sacrifice economic gains in the telecom sector for security benefits.
He appealed to Nigerians to show understanding to the measure and support the efforts of the security agencies.
He also stated that available information from the security circle showed that the action was yielding positive result.
Fielding question from journalists, the minister said: “I will begin by responding to my friend, the first questioner, about shutting down telecommunications facilities in some parts of Northwest of Nigeria. Prior to responding to the question, I want to clarify to all of us that the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999, Section 14, Subsection 2, under Article B, has expounded to us that the primary responsibility of government is the security and welfare of its citizens.
“Understanding the priority of security makes the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) to always make sure that our priority number one is security because this is what the Constitution says and any action to be taken, as long as it will support security institutions to achieve and deliver their responsibilities, government is willing to do that for them.
“Furthermore, security issues cannot be discussed in public like this. Most importantly, I am not in the better position to justify the shutting down of telecommunications because of security.
“I am aware of the shutting down, but the request is not from us. Rather, the request is from the security institutions, in which they asked for that as part of their strategy.
“Because of this, government allowed them to go ahead and even that one, the reason for doing that I may be aware of some, but I’m sorry to say it’s not for public discussion.
“What I only plead with all of us, as lay men, we shall try to give our security institutions the support they need in order to deliver on their mandate.
“Security issues today are not only for the security institutions alone, but there is a role that each and every citizen can play in order to make their work more successful.
“So, I plead with the media to support our security institutions and let us give them the benefit of doubt; when they come up with a strategy, let us not unnecessarily criticise it, except we allow them to begin and see.
“Particularly, they could have information at their disposal that you and I do not have and if you lack information, you will not be able to do justice in your deliberation. It is only when there is sufficient information at your disposal, then you can argue. But if you don’t have it, even if you partake in any debate, you will finally discover that you have made a very wrong decision. So, it is because of this.
“This is originally a request from Zamfara State government, in which they have requested the federal government to support them and Mr. President, as we always know that his priority is security and he always listens to complaints and new strategies on how to handle. So, he is very much aware.
“It is a trial. Let us support them and based on the information we have been reading and hearing through the media that tremendous successes have been recorded so far.
“So, we need to support them to make sure that our country is secured and this is going to be good for all of us.
Asked whether any compensation package would be made available to service providers who would lose money as a result of the shutdown, Pantami responded: “Secondly, on the issue of shutting down the telecommunications facilities, as I said yesterday during an event in which some of your colleagues were there, that in the Digital Economy sector, we agreed that we can compromise the economic benefit of the sector, as long as that compromise will bring an end to insecurity.
“Investors in the sector invested because of profit, but they understand the priority of our government, then when security and economic benefits are going to be attained simultaneously, then definitely, we are going to pursue both of them.
“But if only one can be attained by compromising the other one, we agree to compromise the economy benefit of our sector, in order to support security institutions to deliver their mandate, because as long as there is no security, even the economy will not thrive.
“So, because of this we agreed, we came up with so many policies. Those policies can reduce the growth of our sector, we know, but we know they will support security of the country.”
The Minister announced that FEC approved his memo on a national policy for Fifth Generation Networks for Nigeria’s digital economy after considering the benefits of 5G for the country.
He said: “Furthermore, the policy discusses the benefits to be attained through the deployment of 5G in Nigeria and in any part of the world which includes lower latency, larger capacity, and higher data rate.
“These are the three major benefits of fifth generation. And in a simple language, we can say it will open many opportunities economically, academically, educationally and even in health sector. And it will also support our security institutions, particularly in areas where they need high quality services.
“So, these are some of the benefits to be anticipated when fifth generation or 5G is deployed in Nigeria.”
He recalled that during 5G network trials in Nigeria in 2020, some citizens had complained about its alleged link to Covid-19, which he said had been dispelled.
Pantami said: “And prior to that, as you all know, in 2020, there was a time that we started working, and we started the fifth generation trials. And there was a complaint from citizens about the relationship between 5G and COVID-19.
“Because our government is responsible one, we put everything on hold. We engage more stakeholders. We spent almost 18 months working on that. And we also waited for the resolution and verdict of the two most important organisations globally when it comes to the deployment of telecommunications facilities. These are firstly International Telecommunications Union. That is ITU, which is an arm of the United Nations, and also World Health Organisation, that is WHO, which is another arm of the United Nations. Both of them confirm that there is no any adverse health effects of 5G and it has not been proven to be any harmful to our health.
“Most importantly, even its frequency and radiation is even lower than that of 4G, and it is lower than the televisions and microwave we have at home.
“So, they have already issued that. And they explain about its safety, and also they advised nations on the regulations and the standards to be used in the course of the deployment.
“And this is something that Nigerian Communications Commission has been directed to ensure that all the standards, regulations are complied with.”
He informed that the 5G spectrum would soon be released by the National Frequency Management Council to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Pantani explained: “And finally, the National Frequency Management Council, which is the statutory Council in which I happen to be the chair will release the spectrum of 5G to the Nigerian Communications Commission in bulk when the conditions of deployment are met so that the Nigerian Communications Commission on behalf of the federal government of Nigeria will release the spectrum to the mobile network operators for the deployment of 5G.
“With the approval of this national policy on fifth generation, or 5G, NCC has been directed to start working immediately to come up with regulatory instrument that will ensure its safety, and many more. “Our government gives more priority and preference to the health and security of our citizens as in the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended under Section 14, Subsection 2 Article B.
“So, that is why our subsidiary legislation is going to be developed to ensure that 5G will only be useful in Nigeria, and we cannot allow it to be harmful in any place.”