Operators kicks as NCAA vows to destroy 7,000 mobile masts in 30 days

The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has threatened to demolish masts belonging to different Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) companies in the next 30 days if they failed to obtain the required Aviation Height Clearance (AHC) within the period.

But Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman, Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), expressed shock over the development, saying the operators are not aware of the planned action of NCAA.

The NCAA said out of the over 40,000 masts close to the nation’s airports, about 7,000 of them were constructed without approval.

It said efforts to correct the anomalies through letters of investigation (LoI) had proved abortive.

The NCAA insisted that most of the masts obstructed flight safety and could cause air accident if not demolished.

A statement by Sam Adurogboye, the General Manager, Public Affairs, NCAA, said owners of the affected masts had blatantly refused to comply with the directives of the NCAA, and that it would not hesitate to demolish them after the expiration of the 30 days ultimatum.

He insisted that the companies failed to obtain the statutory Aviation Height Clearance (AHC) from the regulatory agency, stressing that under the Civil Aviation Act, 2006, section 30(3) (1), the NCAA was empowered to prohibit and regulate the installation of any structure which, by virtue of its height or position, was considered to be capable of endangering air navigation safety.

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He declared that the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (Nig.CARs) Part 12.1.7.1.3.1 stipulated that no person or organisation would put up a structure, permanent or temporary, within the navigable airspace of Nigeria unless such a person or organisation was a holder of aviation Height Clearance Certificate granted under the regulation.

It emphasised that several letters and entreaties sent to the GSM providers from NCAA were not responded to, despite having been duly received by the relevant executives and acknowledged.

He added: “Consequent upon this provision, the regulatory authority requires an Aviation Height Clearance (AHC) approval for every tower installation, irrespective of the height and location.”

Adurogboye recalled that Capt. Muhtar Usman, the Director-General, NCAA, earlier in the year held a meeting with the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) members and they were candidly advised by the DG to ensure they obtained AHC.

He insisted that the defaulting GSM providers had been running their networks and providing interconnectivity to millions of subscribers without Aviation Height Clearance Certificate thereby jeopardising safety of air navigation.

He quoted Part 12.1.7.1.6 of the NCAR, which stipulated that NCAA would use all legal means of ensuring the removal of any structure which were erected or constructed without compliance with the provisions of these regulations.

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He declared that if there was no response within the stipulated period, NCAA would immediately embark on mass decommissioning and demolition of all their masts and towers in Nigeria.

Speaking on the development, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman, ALTON, said, “It is unfortunate that aviation agency is taking this step without informing us. As I speak with you, ALTON has not been served with any notice; the network operators have not received any notice. In fact, I am sure the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has not received any notice from them.

“ALTON and NCAA recently had a meeting in which we agreed to set up a joint committee. The meeting which was very cordial and friendly had the NCAA Director General and other top officials in attendance. What the operators are expecting from them is renewal of sites and not approval. At the meeting, there was no case of technical infraction or contravention.

“If the aviation agency goes ahead with its threat of pulling down our masts, we will not rebuild them. We will take the case up to the highest authority because the action will throw the nation into darkness and confusion. I wonder why this threat after we had a robust meeting with them. We are waiting. And if they dare demolish our infrastructure, we will institute a criminal prosecution against them.”