Arbitrary shut downs threaten services

By Lukas Ajanaku, Lagos, Nigeria

MTN Nigeria has confirmed that its base transceiver station (BTS) located at EFAB Estate, Mbora District, Abuja earlier reopened by the regulator of the telecoms sector, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has been shut down for a second time in two weeks by the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA).

Wale Goodluck, Corporate Services Executive at MTN, said in a statement in Lagos that MTN’s BTS was first shut down about two weeks ago by officials of NESREA, who cited non-compliance with setback requirements for BTS.

According to him, the BTS was reopened a few days ago by the regulator of the telecommunications industry, the NCC, which confirmed that the BTS indeed met all requirements set by the regulator for setting up base transceiver stations in Nigeria. He added that officials of NESREA however returned to reseal the site on Tuesday, again plunging subscribers covered by the base station in Abuja into service difficulties.

Goodluck reiterated that MTN, as a responsible corporate citizen, abides by the rules and regulations governing the provision of telecommunications services in Nigeria and painstakingly observes the guidelines listed by NCC for setting up base transceiver stations in Nigeria.

He stated that the rising incidence of arbitrary shut-down of telecom facilities by diverse government departments and agencies could compromise the gains recorded in the sector in the last ten years. He recalled that the company’s services were disrupted in the eastern part of the country last year when the Abia State Infrastructure Development Fund (IDF) sealed off MTN sites, a number of which were hub sites, in Abia State.

“Our customers were needlessly plunged into service difficulties by this action before normalcy was restored. Our facilities across the country have been pointlessly shut down by all manner of government agencies in the last few years,” he said, adding that to compound the problem, criminal elements also wantonly damage the company’s facilities across the country.

He said the company only a few days ago made a public announcement to decry the rising incidence of wanton destruction of its infrastructure mainly by criminal elements, appealing to the public to assist the industry by reporting suspicious activities to security operatives. According to him, MTN records about 70 incidents of damage to its infrastructure nationwide on a monthly basis, stressing that these challenges have profound negative impact on service quality. He said the relevant security agencies and the regulator are aware of this problem and are supportive.

On the latest shut-down of its site by NESREA, Goodluck said the company was engaging with all relevant authorities, including the industry regulator, to resolve the issue as soon as possible so that the subscribers affected by the action can enjoy relief.

“We extend our apologies to our esteemed customers covered by this base transceiver station, and indeed, all our subscribers in the entire Federal Capital Territory, who may have experienced congestion as a result of the loss of capacity on the affected site,” said Goodluck. He appealed for customers’ understanding and assured that efforts would be intensified to expediently resolve the issues and restore normal services.

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