The Nigerian Communications Commission has earmarked an entirety of 693 abandoned telecom masts and towers across the country for demolition.
The commission in a notice provided owners of the base transceiver stations 90 days to either put structures in good shape for immediate use or dismantle them.
In the notice signed by the Director, Public Affairs, NCC, Dr Henry Nkemadu, over 400 of the masts/towers could not be identified by the commission as they were not linked to any network operator.
However, more than 200 of the abandoned structures were linked to three extinct Internet Service Providers – Rainbownet, Reltel/Zoom and Starcomms.
Nkemadu said, “The Nigerian Communications Commission has identified several abandoned telecommunications masts and towers located in various parts of the country.”
The director warned that failure to comply with the directive would force the commission to decommission or dismantle the affected masts and impose fines on their owners, adding that the affected licensees would be made to reimburse the regulator for such incurred expenses.
“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 also 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,” he added.
Nkemadu warned that the continued existence of such structures unattended to had health and safety implications.
According to him, non-usage of the masts has provided an opportunity for illegal mounting of broadcast equipment in those locations.
“Failure to maintain these structures over a long period of time has resulted in their technical failure and constant vandalisation with negative consequences on public health and safety,” he said.
The director added, “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.”
The commission said it had issued Guidelines on Technical Specifications for the Installation of Telecommunications Masts and Towers in 2009 with provisions on appropriate maintenance of such telecommunications facilities.
It would be recalled that Rainbownet Limited, a private fixed wireless telephone operator, owned by a former Governor of Enugu State, Chimaroke Nnamani, was taken over alongside other companies by the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria for failure to pay a debt of N42bn.
Also, Reltel, a fixed-wireless provider, which later rebranded to Zoom Mobile, shut down operation in the country for reportedly unable to compete with the four major network operators in the country.
Starcomms, another Code Division Multiple Access operators, which is no longer in operation, had initially reached an agreement to raise $210m from Capcom Limited in order to stay afloat.
However, the deal was not successful as Capcom reportedly could not raise the required funds to acquire the company.