The Minister of Communications, Isa Pantami, has advised the Nigerian Customs Service to allow fuel trucks access to border towns and remote villages.
According to a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Friday by the minister’s spokesperson, Uwa Suleiman, the access is to enable mobile network operators to power their generators to provide services to Nigerians.
Nigeria recently closed its borders to neighbouring nations to curb illicit importation and improve local manufacturing of goods. The borders remain closed till January 2019.
The Customs Service also announced a ban on petroleum products to Nigerians living within 20 kilometres of an international border.
At least 57 borders have been shut across Nigeria since August as the government intensified steps to limit foreign products into Nigeria.
The border closure has already started taking a toll on the nation’s economy, with many Nigerians complaining of a shortage of rice and other essential products.
Telecom operators recently warned that some regions in the country will experience communication disruptions due to the restrictions of trucks supplying diesel to transceiver base stations close to the border area.
The operators, who are members of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, also said by midday Saturday, “hub sites in Calabar area would be shut down due to lack of diesel.”
They said the directive of the Customs aimed at curbing the movement of petroleum products around the border area was affecting telecommunications.
The network operators also said the directive had security implications.
In the statement, Mr Pantami said officers of NCS deployed to border towns should identify drivers carrying petroleum supplies and grant them concession.
Mr Pantami called on the office of the National Security Adviser to address the issue of vandalisation of telecommunications infrastructure in some parts of the country.
He advised the governors of the affected states to take prompt actions to ensure protection of critical infrastructure.
“Numerous complaints reaching the Minister’s office allege that men of the service(Customs), especially around border towns where BTS(Base Transceiver Stations) are located, deny passage to petrol tank drivers, thereby denying them access to refuel generators supplying power to these base stations. The effects of these acts are a threat to national security and economic growth and cannot be ignored,” the statement said.
“The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, while applauding the revived efforts of the NCS in tackling the activities of smugglers, however, urges the service to direct its officers deployed to these locations, to identify and grant concession to genuine drivers carrying petroleum supplies to remote locations and are a critical link in the chain. The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, is centred around a Digital Economy and the telecoms sector, occupies a central position in the scheme of things. It is of utmost importance that public institutions collaborate and form partnerships that will ensure the security and prosperity of all Nigerians.”
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