The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said it will dismantle 693 unused telecommunications towers across the country, if owners do not comply with an ultimatum.
The regulator claims these towers have been abandoned and it has given owners 90 days to 'rehabilitate, commence usage or dismantle and remove' the infrastructure.
Whilst the Commission said Nigeria needs 80,000 base stations to ensure reliable telecommunications services, fewer than 50,000 have been deployed to date.
A statement from the NCC reads: "In line with the provision of the Guidelines on Technical Specifications for the Installation of Telecommunications Masts and Towers, owners of the abandoned masts and towers are hereby given notice to rehabilitate, commence usage or dismantle and remove the masts/towers from the relevant locations within 90 days of this notice."
NCC's Director - Public Affairs Henry Nkemadu added that should the regulator take steps and actually dismantle infrastructure, the original owners of the towers in question will pay for the service.
"Affected licensees will be required to reimburse the Commission for expenses in this regard," said Nkemadu.
Telecommunication masts continue to dominate discussion around Nigeria's ICT and telecommunications space.
In April 2019 ITWeb Africa reported the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) threatened to demolish about 7000 communication towers, claiming the infrastructure did not comply with regulations, specifically height restriction.
In early July 2019, the matter had been escalated to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) with the NCC claiming the targeted installations were critical national infrastructure and any attempt to disrupt them must be approved by the Adviser.
A review of the 693 towers confirmed that several belong to now defunct CDMA companies which could have sold their base stations to existing operators. Industry experts believe the evolution of base station and mast technologies and the high cost of running this infrastructure could be the reasons behind abandonment.
They also cite extortion by state officials as a key factor. It is alleged that officials demand payment via tariffs and multiple taxation and threatened to 'shut down installations' until payment is made.
The President of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola said, "Dismantling them would be an economic loss to the country. Huge amount of money was spent to build them. If the government had addressed several issues confronting the operators, most of them would have remained active and able to maintain their facilities."