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5G: Minister allays fears over health safety

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has allayed the fears of Nigerians on the deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) technology in Nigeria, clarifying that there is no known scientific evidence to date suggesting that 5G poses any risks to public health and safety. Pantami stated this when he led the heads of agencies under his ministry to an investigative public hearing by the Senate Joint Committee on Communications; Science and Technology; Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Cyber Crimes; and Primary Health Care and Communicable Diseases, at the National Assembly Chamber in Abuja.

The heads of agencies under the ministry, who were present at the hearing include the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta; Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Kashifu Abdullahi, and the Managing Director of Nigerian Communications Satellites Limited (NigComSat), Dr. Abimbola Alale. Speaking at the public hearing, Pantami eloquently affirmed the findings from independent scientific reports published by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), both agencies of the United Nations (UN), which clearly indicate that there are no health risks to human lives associated with the deployment of 5G.

The Minister said after the initial approval by the President which led to the commencement, in 2019 of 5G trial in selected locations in the country and the subsequent intervention of the National Assembly in 2020, seeking clarifications on probable health risks of 5G deployment, the ministry had so far undertaken wide-ranging stakeholder consultations to ascertain the safety of 5G networks.

Pantami explained that having aligned with the ITU and WHO reports and studied 5G deployment situations in many advanced countries where it has been fully deployed without any health risks, the ministry can affirmatively say that there are no health risks to 5G networks. “To this end, we are also working on a 5G deployment policy that will take care of all security, health, and safety concerns of Nigerians and we will get the nod of the President after all issues have been addressed before we proceed with our deployment, as we cannot afford to lag in the 5G revolution,” he said.

The minister clarified that 5G is an enhanced technology over the previous technologies of 4G, 3G, and 2G, the three of which have more radiations than the 5G technology, adding that the “radiation from mobile technologies such as 5G is internationally certified by ITU and WHO as nonionising, meaning such radiation does not have a harmful effect on human lives and it is far low compared with radiation from a microwave oven that individuals use in their homes.” Representatives of mobile networks operators (MNOs), telecom equipment vendors, ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs), especially the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement (NESREA), National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), among several others also spoke at the public hearing.

The stakeholders took turns to state their positions on 5G deployment and issues surrounding its health and safety concerns and almost unanimously aligned with the scientific reports from ITU and WHO cited by the minister. Earlier in his address, the President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmed Lawan, said the Senate resolved on May 5, 2020, that the joint committee conduct the public hearing, following a motion of public importance and urgency by Sen. Uche Ekwunife, Chairman, Senate Committee on Science and Technology to resolve all public health and safety concerns around 5G before NCC can proceed with its deployment in Nigeria.

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