From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Executive Council presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the National Policy on Fifth Generation 5G Networks for Nigeria’s digital economy immediate effect.
Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, said the approval came following the presentation of the implementation of the National Policy to the council.
Briefing State House Correspondents, the minister said the policy discusses the benefits to be attained through the deployment of 5G in Nigeria and in any part of the world which includes lower latency, larger capacity, and higher data rate.
According to him, “These are the three major benefits of fifth generation. And in a simple language, we can say it will open many opportunities economically, academically, educationally and even in health sector. And it will also support our security institutions, particularly in areas where they need high quality services. So, these are some of the benefits to be anticipated when fifth generation or 5G is deployed in Nigeria.”
The Minister explained why the deployment was delayed till now. He said: “Prior to that, as you all know, in 2020, there was a time that we started working, and we started the fifth generation trials. And there was a complaint from citizens about the relationship between 5G and COVID-19. Because our government is responsible one, we put everything on hold. We engage more stakeholders.
“We spend almost 18 months working on that. And we also waited for the resolution and verdict of the two most important organisations globally when it comes to the deployment of telecommunications facilities. These are firstly International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which is an arm of the United Nations, and also World Health Organisation (WHO), which is another arm of the United Nations. Both of them confirm that there is no adverse health effects of 5G and it has not been proven to be harmful to our health.
“Most importantly, even its frequency and radiation is even lower than that of 4G, and it is lower than the televisions and microwave we have at home. So, they have already issued that. And they explain about its safety, and also they advise nations on the regulations and the standards to be used in the course of the deployment. And this is something that Nigerian Communications Commission has been directed to ensure that all the standards, regulations are complied with.
“Furthermore, you will all recall that in order to create awareness and sensitise our citizens, Nigerian Communications Commission has been reaching out to citizens through local languages to tell them the advantages of 5G and where we need it. Even the deployment is in phases, we can only start with major cities in Nigeria, where there is need for very high quality broadband. So, only few places will start to benefit from it. And we do hope that the plan will come up immediately. From now to 2025, we will be able to ensure that significant towns and cities in the country will also benefit from 5G.”
Pantami said before the presentation of the memo to council, they met with different stakeholders at least five to six stages were they made contributions and recommendations.
He said: “We were in the National Assembly for public hearing, in which stakeholders were invited. We did the trials of 5G on 29 November 2019, in Abuja. And we conducted the same trial in five other cities in the country. And this is to show to us that government has engaged citizens and at the same time allowed experts and other stakeholders to make recommendations, suggestions, and even constructive criticism, where necessary in order to ensure a successful deliberation before the deployment.
“And finally, the National Frequency Management Council, which is the statutory Council in which I happen to be the chair will release the spectrum of 5G to the Nigerian Communications Commission in bulk when the conditions of deployment are met so that the Nigerian Communications Commission on behalf of the federal government of Nigeria will release the spectrum to the mobile network operators for the deployment of 5G.
“With the approval of this national policy on fifth generation, or 5G, NCC has been directed to start working immediately to come up with regulatory instrument that will ensure its safety, and many more. Our government gives more priority and preference to the health and security of our citizens as contained in the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended under Section 14, Subsection 2 Article B. “So, that is why our subsidiary legislation is going to be developed to ensure that 5G will only be useful in Nigeria, and we cannot allow it to be harmful in any place.”The minister recalled that the 5G network has been deployed in the US, in the UK, in Switzerland, in Germany, and many European countries.
Pantami said: “It has also been developed in the Republic of Korea and China. And it has also been deployed in Africa, especially South Africa and Lesotho. And there are other countries that are also working in the same pace we have been, like Kenya, Uganda, Morocco and Egypt. All of them are just at the last stage of the deployment of 5G and I congratulate Nigerians for getting the memo approved by the Federal Executive Council. And I do hope that we will soon benefit from 5G to get high quality broadband.”
Meanwhile, Pantami, has disclosed that the nation’s security agencies requested for the shut down of telecommunications activities in Zamfara to curtailed banditry activities.
Fielding questions from State House correspondents at the presidential villa, Abuja on Wednesday, said the measure did not originate from his ministry.
He said the federal government did not object to the request.
On whether the shut down will be extended to Katsina, Kaduna and other bandit-infested states, he said responding to such a question will jeopardized security information.
Pantami, however, explained that government is willing to sacrifice economic gains in the telecom sector for security benefits.
He appealed to Nigerians to show understanding to the measure and support the efforts of the security agencies.
He said: “I will begin by responding to my friend, the first questioner, about shutting down telecommunications facilities in some parts of Northwest of Nigeria. Prior to responding to the question, I want to clarify to all of us that the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999, Section 14, Subsection 2, under Article B, has expounded to us that the primary responsibility of government is the security and welfare of its citizens.
“Understanding the priority of security makes the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) to always make sure that our priority number one is security because this is what the Constitution says and any action to be taken, as long as it will support security institutions to achieve and deliver their responsibilities, government is willing to do that for them.
“Furthermore, security issues cannot be discussed in public like this. Most importantly, I am not in the better position to justify the shutting down of telecommunications because of security.
“I am aware of the shutting down, but the request is not from us. Rather, the request is from the security institutions, in which they asked for that as part of their strategy.
“Because of this, government allowed them to go ahead and even that one, the reason for doing that I may be aware of some, but I’m sorry to say it’s not for public discussion.
“What I only plead with all of us, as lay men, we shall try to give our security institutions the support they need in order to deliver on their mandate.
“Security issues today are not only for the security institutions alone, but there is a role that each and every citizen can play in order to make their work more successful.
“So, I plead with the media to support our security institutions and let us give them the benefit of doubt; when they come up with a strategy, let us not unnecessarily criticise it, except we allow them to begin and see.
“Particularly, they could have information at their disposal that you and I do not have and if you lack information, you will not be able to do justice in your deliberation. It is only when there is sufficient information at your disposal, then you can argue. But if you don’t have it, even if you partake in any debate, you will finally discover that you have made a very wrong decision. So, it is because of this.
“This is originally a request from Zamfara State government, in which they have requested the federal government to support them and Mr. President, as we always know that his priority is security and he always listens to complaints and new strategies on how to handle. So, he is very much aware.
“It is a trial. Let us support them and based on the information we have been reading and hearing through the media that tremendous successes have been recorded so far.
“So, we need to support them to make sure that our country is secured and this is going to be good for all of us.
Asked whether any compensation package would be made available to service providers who would lose money as a result of the shutdown, Pantami responded: “Secondly, on the issue of shutting down the telecommunications facilities, as I said yesterday during an event in which some of your colleagues were there, that in the Digital Economy sector, we agreed that we can compromise the economic benefit of the sector, as long as that compromise will bring an end to insecurity.
“Investors in the sector invested because of profit, but they understand the priority of our government, then when security and economic benefits are going to be attained simultaneously, then definitely, we are going to pursue both of them.
“But if only one can be attained by compromising the other one, we agree to compromise the economy benefit of our sector, in order to support security institutions to deliver their mandate, because as long as there is no security, even the economy will not thrive.
“So, because of this we agreed, we came up with so many policies. Those policies can reduce the growth of our sector, we know, but we know they will support security of the country.”
In his remark at the briefing, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu announced that FEC also approved the National Policy of Food and Nutrition.
He also said FEC also approved the consultancy for the design and construction of the second runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja for N500 million.
Garba explained: “The council today ratified, approved the policy on food and nutrition for the country and following the approval, which is forming the basis of a national multi-sectoral plan for action for food and nutrition.
“There will be, going forward, a budget line for food and nutrition in all MDAs and hopefully in the three tiers of government in the country.
“Another approval is for the Attorney General to proceed with the process of ratifying promotional framework for Occupational Safety and Health convention.
“This is about promoting preventive health, preventive safety and health care in workplaces in the country.
“So, the government of Nigeria has begun the process of ratifying domesticating and applying this major resolution decision by the International Labour Organization which was passed in 2006.
“Nigeria of course, had voted and supported it. So, we are now going to ratify that.
“One other thing that also you need to know which minister is not here is the approval for a N1.2 billion Naira contract for the emergency rehabilitation of the Nasarawa Water Supply Scheme.
“Floods in the year 2000 had destroyed Nasarawa township, destroyed the waterworks and as a result, pipe borne water is unavailable to the communities. And the whole water intake has been destroyed. And in order to preserve public health and, of course, the difficulty of the state government in restoring the water supply scheme, the federal government has made this major approval which upon completion would be handed over to the Nasarawa state government for maintenance and upkeep.”
Also speaking Minister of Power, Abubakar Aliyu, said FEC approved the award of contract for procurement of 40 sets of 330 kV isolators for the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
“So, this equipment was approved for us to under contract in favor of Mssr Hinterland Associates Limited at the sum of the foreign component is US dollar 989,346 15 cents then, the naira component is N64,236,625 with 7.5% VAT payable at the Central Bank of Nigeria at the prevailing exchange rate at the time of payment with the delivery period of six months,” he said.
Also approved for the ministry was a contract for the procurement of one set of 132 kV chrome temporary circuit breakers, 16 sets of 33 kV ABB circuit breakers and 25 sets of 33 kV compound units, lightning arrestors for the TCN at the combat of N 362,796,000.