The ongoing dispute between telecoms operators in Nigeria and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has escalated with the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) now involved.
In April 2019, ITWeb Africa reported that NCAA threatened to demolish about 7000 communication towers belonging to telcos and others, claiming the towers did not comply with regulations (specifically height restriction).
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said it has reported NCAA's threat to ONSA claiming the targeted installations are critical national infrastructure and any attempt to disrupt them must be approved by the Adviser.
However, the NCAA is adamant it will demolish masts belonging to organisations that have ignored its regulatory requirements on the clearance to erect any high structure within the navigable airspace in Nigeria.
The NCC argued that the NCAA's threat puts national security at risk, claiming the action could trigger communication blackout while financial institutions, which rely on ATMs, will not be able to function.
NCC's Executive Commissioner in charge of Stakeholder Management, Sunday Dare said: "The path the NCCA is towing is not in the best interest of the country as the proposed demolition will have serious security implications. Thousands of subscribers will lose connectivity, bank ATMs will shut down and critical equipment leveraging telecom infrastructure will no longer function."
"NCC expects that at the minimum the NCCA would relate directly with the Commission as the regulator on this matter in the spirit of government inter-agency collaboration towards some sort of arbitration and resolution. To have chosen to make the matter a media issue suggests some kind of subtle ambush against the operators".
While the NCC is seeking to involve the ONSA, operators (except Globacom) have complied with the NCAA's directive to secure an aviation height clearance certificate for every mast installed across the country, irrespective of height and location.
"Some suppliers and operators have since started the regulation of their masts, but others have failed," said NCAA's spokesperson Sam Adurogboye.
The NCAA added that it plans to focus on infrastructure of operators within the financial sector and according to its records the United Bank of Africa (UBA) has 439 towers, Guaranty Trust Bank (295 towers), Unity Bank (217 towers) and Sterling Bank (159 towers).