Angst over double-speak on critical infrastructure protection

Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) office

The recent threat by Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to demolish over 8, 000 telecommunications masts belonging to some telecommunications providers across the country, has again shown the double -speak on protection of critical infrastructure.

As matter of fact, Nigeria’s refractory and sore-footed approach to the protection of critical infrastructure particularly ICT resources is worrying.

The government claims that telecom infrastructure are critical national and security assets; but its agencies see ICT infrastructure as fat cow which everybody must milk.

Only recently, NCAA flexed its muscles drawing from powers under the Civil Aviation Act, 2006, which said that without the approval certificate, all masts and towers constitute danger to safety of air navigation.

“Under the Civil Aviation Act, 2006, Section 30(3)(1), the NCAA is empowered to prohibit and regulate the installation of any structure which by virtue of its height or position is considered to endanger the safety of air navigation.

“Furthermore, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs) Part 12.1.7.1.3.1 stipulates that no person or organisation shall put up a structure (permanent or temporary) within the navigable airspace of Nigeria unless such a person or organisation is a holder of AHC Certificate granted under this Regulation”

This is in addition to other sister agencies which claim one regulation or another over telecom infrastructure or operations. Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is also there.

But either out of ignorance or by refusal to do the right thing or both; governments at all levels have paid insignificant attention to the protection of critical infrastructure.

It is disturbing because critical infrastructure is the backbone of Nigeria’s economy, security, and health. In simple terms, it provides the essential services that underpin Nigerian society.

In the absence of strategic guidance to public and private partners to promote the security and resilience of the nation’s critical infrastructure; there have been growing targeted attacks on these infrastructures particularly on ICT equipment, infrastructure and their workers.

Vandalism of ICT infrastructure is a clear and present danger hampering the provision of quality services to Nigerians as well as causing headaches for operators and the government.

Such disruptions not only disconnect subscribers, but also cause embarrassment to businesses and national security.

It also has ripple effect on the economy, including; reduced investment, job losses and reduced taxable income

It is therefore important to raise awareness on the critical nature of the infrastructure and begin to change Nigerians mind-sets.

The aim is to make Nigerians see ICT infrastructure as a national resource which must be protected just like railway and electricity infrastructure.

Government should also beef up security around telecommunication infrastructure nationwide to prevent vandals from destroying critical economic infrastructure.

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