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Minister: Nigeria ready to deploy 5G network

Minister of Communications, Dr. Isa Pantami, yesterday, disclosed that Nigeria would soon give its final nod to the deployment of the Fifth Generation (5G) Network technology in the country. This followed the successful conduct of trials of the technology in seven locations last September, amidst the controversies trailing its alleged link to the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic across the world.

Pantami, who made the disclosure at a public hearing on the “Status of the 5G Network in Nigeria and its Technological Impact on Nigerian Citizens,” said all that was left is for the government to complete the draft national policy required to drive the process of its deployment in the country. The public hearing was organised by the Senate Joint Committee on Communication, Science and Technology, ICT and Cybercrimes as well as Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases. According to Pantami, once the draft national policy is ready, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), being the regulator, is expected to come up with its own guidelines for operators.

The minister said that government had done proper and extensive consultations with critical stakeholders including all security agencies; pointing out that the Federal Government will never jeopardize the security and health of citizens. He said the required research and testing had been carried out in seven different locations in the country.

“On the 19th of September, the process of trial to study the impact of 5G in Nigeria was approved by the Federal Government in some selected places: Abuja, Kano, Lagos, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Calabar and Port Harcourt. “We did the trials because you can’t just accept a new technology the way it comes; you need to study it.

“As we were studying it, international organizations like World Health Organization (WHO), International Telecommunication Union (ITU) etc., also carried out their research and certified that the network is not injurious in any way to the people of the country where it is being operated or affect their infrastructure.

“On 25 of September 2019, we conducted the first trial of 5G in Nigeria. I did the trial personally. So if there are any implications in terms of radiation or relationship with COVID-19, I would have been the first victim because I did it. I’m grateful to God, to date I have never contracted the virus. “We are in the process of policy making. Though we are not yet there where we can deploy 5G now, but definitely we are on track towards doing that in a matter of months,” he said.

The minister also said that government had done proper and extensive consultations with critical stakeholders, including all security agencies; pointing out that the Federal Government will never jeopardize the security and health of citizens.

Pantami, who allayed fears of the technology being harmful to human health, said all available research, including that of WHO and ITU, have shown that there are no adverse health effects and, therefore, no cause for alarm. According to him, there were no scientific proofs linking COVID-19 to the deployment of (5G) technology or indeed any other disease, stressing that the radiation in the current (4G) is higher and even more harmful compared to the new technology. Most of the stakeholders, including telecommunications companies and operators, endorsed the deployment of the new technology.

However, the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) has cautioned strongly that the deployment of 5th Generation (5G) Network could be a threat to national security if deployed wrongly. Director of Communications Office of the NSA, Bala Nakandu, said 5G Network will require telecommunications operators in Nigeria to upgrade their equipment to the new technology adaptable (5G) network which, if not properly deployed, could serve as tools for eavesdropping, cyber-attacks and even espionage by external forces. He said that though the ONSA was not against deployment of the new technology, it had shared its fears with the NCC during its initial trial of the technology in the country and expects that the concerns will be properly addressed in the draft national policy when it is ready.

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