Destruction of telecoms facilities and national security

September 9, 2019
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The xenophobic attacks against Nigerians and other foreign nationals in South Africa sparked reprisal attack of infrastructure in some parts of the country. Destruction of telecoms infrastrcuture is an ill wind because it can compromise national security and service quality, writes LUCAS AJANAKU.

Like a horror film, grim images of attacks on foreign nationals and burning down of their means of livelihoods emerged from South Africa last week.

Again, it is another season of xenophobic attacks. It is not the first and this might not likely be the last if the root cause of the attacks are not addressed.

There were, however, reprisal attacks in Nigeria whose citizens were worst hit by the unprovoked aggression.

The Nigeria arm of Africa’s largest carrier, MTN Group, came under attacks.

The telco confirmed that its facilities, customers and some of its stakeholders were subjects of attacks in retaliation for the ongoing xenophobia situation in South Africa. “We have confirmed reports of attacks in Lagos, Ibadan and Uyo,” MTN’s Company Secretary, Uto Ukpanah, said in a statement.

The Association of Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ATCON) has warned that further vandalism of telecoms infrastructure will spell doom for the industry.

Its President, Olushola Teniola, in a note, said news and a reaction to what is happening in South Africa are disheartening. “We cannot have vandalism of telecom infrastructure as the answer to the unfortunate incidents happening in South Africa. Other African citizens have also faced similar fates and the best thing is for peaceful protests to happen to express displeasure,” Teniola said.

According to him, facilities for now may not have not been vandalised but outlets maybe at risk.  “Should vandalism continue, then negative impacts will be felt in quality of service (QoS), level of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and create a level of uncertainty amongst the investment community, he said.

Ukpanah said while MTN Nigeria remains committed to providing uninterrupted services, the safety and security of its customers, staff and partners is of utmost priority. “All MTN stores and service centres will, therefore, be closed as a precaution until further notice. MTN condemns any acts of violence, prejudice and xenophobia and remains absolutely committed to ensuring a peaceful harmonious and respectful relationship with all communities in Nigeria and across Africa.

“We are engaging all relevant authorities in this regard and we urge them to act swiftly to reduce tensions both in South Africa and Nigeria. We will provide further updates as and when possible,” Ukpanah said.

Teniola agreed no less with him. He said: “The shutdown of their outlets, hopefully, is a preventive one until the government of Nigeria and other African leaders can intervene to curtail it.

Continued diplomacy in reaching a permanent resolution to the root causes of the problem must bbe explored.”

Chairman, MTN Nigeria, Ernest Ndukwe, has also rejected xenophibic attacks in South Africa and reprisals in Nigeria.

In a statement, he condemned the attacks in unequivocal terms and commiserated with the victims of the unfortunate incident.

Ndukwe, a former Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), said: “The board of MTN Nigeria wishes to add its unequivocal condemnation of the xenophobia and violence against Nigerians and other nationalities in South Africa over the recent days, as well as the violent response to it in Nigeria. Violence cannot and must never be acceptable and we must reject it in the strongest terms possible.

“We offer our profound sympathies to all those affected and urge all stakeholders and communities in Nigeria, South Africa and other countries, to act with restraint, and to work collaboratively to address these issues.

“Our future as a continent will be built on enhanced connections and greater integration economically, culturally and politically. It is in all of our interests to work together.”

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