The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has threatened to demolish 7000 telecoms masts for alleged non-compliance with regulations (specifically height restriction), a threat operators said would have an adverse effect on telecoms services nationwide.
The NCAA regulates aviation safety including oversight functions of airports, airspace and meteorological services, and is tasked with economic management of the industry.
In a meeting with telcos, NCAA Director General Muhtar Usman said operators have until 23 May 2019 to sort out their infrastructure issues, failing which the regulator will proceed with the dismantling of the masts.
Specifically, the authority wants operators to obtain aviation height clearance certificate for every mast installed across the country irrespective of height and location. It cited the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations Part 188.8.131.52.3.1 to justify its action.
Operators warned the NCAA is putting national security at risk with its planned action and there was no agreement in place compelling them to secure aviation height clearance every year, since the masts do not increase in height.
However NCAA spokesperson Sam Adurogboye argued, "All masts and telecom towers deployed by telecom operators without the prior authorisation of the NCAA constitute danger to the safety of air navigation. Operators who build their telecom towers are aware, on the one hand of the regulations, and on the other hand that their equipment is illegal. They can only force the authority to take strong repressive measures."
In response the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) stated: "The move is another way to impose unwarranted taxes on the sector, which is already overburdened by multiple taxation from governments and their agencies."
ALTON Chairman Gbenga Adebayo added, "Telecommunication is the infrastructure of infrastructures because other sectors - including aviation, banking, health, transport, rely on ICT to drive their operations, which when attacked, the economy and the people will feel the impact negatively. Blackout becomes imminent."
Telecoms analyst Bayo Adeniyi said, "Quality of services will be severely affected, people will not be able to communicate and operators will incur losses on investments made to setup the masts."