The face-off between the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and telecoms providers, particularly Glo reached a crescendo when the former issued an ultimatum threatening to decommission Glo and other defaulters’ over 7,000 masts due to Aviation Height Clearance (AHC), ANTHONY OMOH in this article looks at both sides and writes:
COME May 23, the 30 day ultimatum issued Glo and other telecoms providers would have expired and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) would have started instituting mass decommissioning and demolition over 7,000 telecommunication masts and towers around the country for safety violations.
Already players in the telecommunication sector are complaining that the NCAA’s threat is against the Ease-of-Doing-Business policy of the Federal Government and is calling on the presidency to intervene but according to Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs) Part 126.96.36.199.6. the NCAA is empowered to use all legal means of ensuring the removal of any structure erected without compliance with the provisions of these Regulations.See link of ultimatum to telecoms service providers issued April 23, 2019
There are over 40,000 masts and towers in Nigeria and problems started when NCAA accused telecommunication providers for failing to obtain the statutory Aviation Height Clearance (AHC), without which, all the masts and towers constitute danger to safety of air navigation.
The NCAA stated further that Globacom and other defaulting GSM providers have been running their networks and providing inter-connectivity to millions of subscribers without Aviation Height Clearance Certificate thereby jeopardizing safety of air navigation.
Under the Civil Aviation Act, 2006, Section 30(3)(1), the NCAA is empowered to prohibit and regulate the installation of any structure which by virtue of its height or position is considered to endanger the safety of air navigation.
Furthermore, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs) Part 188.8.131.52.3.1 stipulates that No person or organization shall put up a structure (permanent or temporary) within the navigable airspace of Nigeria unless such a person or organization is a holder of Aviation Height Clearance Certificate granted under this Regulation.
Questions now arise about where the regulator was when these 7000 masts that do not have AHC approval were erected? Who gave the telco’s approval to erect the towers? And why it has taken the aviation regulator this long to start making an issue of it.
General manager, Public relations, Sam Adurogboye who spoke to Nigerianflightdeck explained that not all telecom providers were not compliant of the AHC clearance and stated that they (Telcos) were in compliance until Glo started flouting regulations.
“This AHC has always been there from the outset and it isn’t about telcos alone. There are high-rise buildings that have to comply to the AHC so it’s not about them. In truth, they were all complying during the advent but when Glo started flouting it, the others joined. Not all are defaulting with the AHC directive, just majorly Glo
“At the advent of telcoms, we showed them documentation, regulations and guides explaining to them the impacts and implications of doing otherwise. When Glo came onboard they first stated that the Nigeria Telecommunications Commission (NCC) told them not to pay but we did our investigation and reached out to our sister regulator, then they started asking why they had to pay.
“We called them and asked them all instead of locating their masts separately, they could all co-locate to one mast. If it was about the money for us, would we give them that advise. This is about safety. In the Niger Delta during the height of militancy we advised them the same, they refused and each person kept doing their own thing to no avail until they took our advise
NCAA in a statement that blew the situation quite open said contrary to Regulations, the promoters of Glo telecommunication and these other defaulters have failed to obtain the mandatory Aviation Height Clearance (AHC) from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) which is considered as a violation of safety Regulations.
It said several letters and entreaties sent to Globacom Limited and these other GSM providers from the Authority were not responded to despite that they were duly received by the relevant executives and duly acknowledged.
In addition, Letters of Investigation (LOI) were written and delivered to them with no response recorded till date.
Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, while reacting said that the threat by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to dismantle over 7,000 masts after the grace of 30 days ultimatum was against the Ease-of-Doing-Business policy of the Federal Government.
Adebayo called on the Office of the Vice President to as a matter of urgency convey stakeholders meeting to unravel why NCAA and other agencies, including States and Local Governments were bent on thwarting the effort of the government to ensure improved economy.
Adebayo also told NCAA at the 10th anniversary of the Beacon of Information and Communications Technology (BoICT) Awards, to discontinue its ‘harassment’ of telecom companies over the Aviation Height Clearance (AHC) claims, saying that the telecom masts were national critical infrastructure.
According to him, Nigeria ought to have invested in telecom infrastructure, but due to failures in the past to do that, foreign investors were made to understand that the environment was conducive for investment.
He urged NCAA to understand that switching off a telecom base station had serious national security implications hence dialogue should be the way out adding that telecom operators were suffering due to multifaceted taxes and other unhealthy situations they face .
Recall, however, in a meeting with the Director General, early this year, the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) members were candidly advised by the DG to ensure they obtain Aviation Height Clearance.See link of ALTON meeting with NCAA February 20, 2019
This was to reiterate the need for all masts and towers erected in Nigeria to adhere to safety regulation and ensure safety of air navigation.
At the meeting, Globacom representatives were present and were asked questions concerning Glo’s refusal to obtain Aviation Height Clearance Certificate. In response the delegates demanded to be furnished with the location of the masts. A booklet containing the coordinates and location of the masts has since been made available to the organization.
As a result of the meeting, other telecommunications providers have implicitly demonstrated considerably compliance by duly obtaining the requisite height clearance from the Authority except for these few defaulters which included Glo.
As the ultimatum gradually winds up, everyone is waiting to see which way the pendulum will swing as without the service the telcos provide, it may make communication difficult but if they insist on their path, the safety implications are far-reaching and will do no good to the aviation industry, right now only time will tell.