Telecom masts numbering 693 have been marked for demolition by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). Over 400 of the masts are reportedly unidentifiable or untraceable to any network operator in the country.
The masts were reportedly abandoned by some network operators, and the Director for Public Affairs , NCC, Henry Nkemadu, disclosed in a statement that more than 200 of those structures were associated with Rainbownet, Reltel/Zoom and Starcomms, which are all now defunct network service providers.
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- Rainbownet Limited, a private fixed wireless telephone operator, owned by a former Governor of Enugu State, Chimaroke Nnamani, was acquired by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria due to its failure to pay a debt of N42 billion.
- Reltel was a fixed-wireless provider, which later rebranded to Zoom Mobile, and shut down operation following its failure to compete with the four major network operators in the country.
- Starcomms had initially reached an agreement to raise $210 million from Capcom Limited in order to stay afloat. However, the deal was not successful as Capcom could not raise the required funds to acquire the company.
NCC’s condition: The regulator gave owners of the masts 90 days to put the structures in good shape or risk demolition. Nkemadu stated that the NCC would not hesitate to destroy the masts and impose fines if the directive issued is not complied with.
“Where there is a failure to comply with this directive, the commission shall exercise its regulatory mandate by taking necessary steps to decommission/dismantle the abandoned masts/towers.
“Affected licensees will be required to reimburse the commission for expenses in this regard, in addition to the payment of a fine as provided in Chapter 5 (4)(d) of the Guidelines.”
Nkemadu was also concerned about the health and safety implications of the abandoned structures, stating that broadcasting houses had taken advantage of the situation to site their illegal equipment.
“Failure to maintain these structures over a long period of time has resulted in technical failure and constant vandalisation with negative consequences on public health and safety.
“In certain locations, it was observed that criminals took advantage of these abandoned structures to host illegal broadcast equipment for relaying subversive messages against the state.”
Note: Provisions on appropriate maintenance of such telecommunications facilities and the guidelines on Technical Specifications for the Installation of Telecommunications Masts and Towers were issued in 2009 by NCC.