Nigeria’s minister of communications technology Omobola Johnson has declared as “untrue” the widely circulating claims that telecoms masts emit substances that are injurious to the human health.
“There is no empirical evidence that emissions from [telecoms] base stations cause harm,” Omobola said, while speaking at an event in Abuja.
According to the minister, her department is cautious of acts that could put the health of Nigerians and the environment at risk, which is why it is collaborating with other regulatory bodies and environmental experts to ensure that telecoms facilities are not set up haphazardly, although in strict adherence to available environmental and health laws.
Citing researches conducted by international bodies such as the WHO, UN and other agencies, the minister stated that the ministry has scientific backing for its stance on the issue and is now actively involved in advocacy.
“The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) is also doing some advocacy around whether or not the base stations are harmful because there are lots of researches that had been done by the WHO, the UN and different other agencies,” Omobola said.
The minister also mentioned the roles of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), two agencies under the ministry, in regulating how masts are erected across the nation.
The NCC she said is the umpire for Nigeria’s telecommunication industry while NESREA plays critical role in ensuring that base stations, telecoms facilities and other infrastructure are not harmful to the environment and people living near such.
“NCC is in charge of the regulation of base station mast; NCC is a regulator for the telecommunication industry there is no question about that. NESREA [on the other hand] has a role to ensure that not only telecommunication mast, but any infrastructure in the country, is positioned in a way that is not harmful to the environment or harmful to people, whether it is a power mast, a broadcast mast or a telecommunication mast,” the minister stated.
She then recalled previous instances when both agencies had frictions while carrying out their duties. According to her, the situation reached its crescendo when NESREA shut down some base stations, warranting the intervention of the federal ministry.
“These are the kind of things we were discussing with NESREA; let the shutting down of a base station be the very last resort,” Omobola added.