The Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Dr Isa Patanmi have disagreed on the suitability of the 5th Generation (5G) technology in Nigeria.
ONSA warned of grave national security risks potentially associated with the wrongful use of the technology equipment for telecommunications services in the country.
But Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Dr. Isa Ali Pantami dismissed fears of harmful effects of the technology in Nigeria and other countries.
Pantami said the Federal Government is satisfied with results of trials conducted so far, adding the 5G technology is safe and devoid of any negative impact on human health.
The Minister said the country is waiting for President Muhammadu Buhari to approve a national policy on the technology before full deployment.
The Director Communications in the Office of the National Security Adviser, Dr Bala Fakandu and Pantami made these assertions in their presentations during a one day investigative public hearing on: “Present status of 5th generation (5G) network in Nigeria and its technological impact on Nigeria citizens”by the Senate Joint Committee on Communications, Science & Technology, ICT & Cyber Crimes, and Primary Health Care & Communicable Diseases, in Abuja.
Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Chairman Senate Committee on Communications, chaired the Joint Committee.
Fakandu said the NSA is worried the 5G technology infrastructure will be highly susceptible to “eavesdropping, tracking, cyber-attacks, military and industrial espionage and other malicious activities by foreign actors.”
He said: “I am going to talk about the National Security concerns. We are aware that the deployment of 5G will come with different types of equipment and so we understand that the stakeholders in the telecommunications industry will make effort to ensure that they upgrade their systems in order to meet up with the new technology.
“But we are concerned about the deliberate vulnerabilities and backdoors within the 5G network equipment. That is one of the key concerns we have and this will make the infrastructure highly susceptible to eavesdropping, tracking, cyber-attacks, military and industrial espionage and other malicious activities by foreign actors.
“We understand these are things that will be put in place particularly in the policy the Minister has talked about but I need to emphasise it so that the stakeholders in the telecommunications industry will understand where we are coming from because the national security concerns is the concern of the Office of the National Security Adviser and of the President as well.
“We urge the Minister to carry the Office of the NSA along in the development of the policy so that we could have a robust framework to take care of these areas.”
Pantami said that he had personally tried the technology to ensure that if there was going to be a victim, he would be the one affected.
He noted that so far no negative impact has been established from the research and trial carried out both at the local and the international level.
“There is no link between 5G and COVID-19. And there is no relationship between 5G and any disease. The only issue being raised usually is about radiation.
“But people don’t realise that the radiation of 4G is more harmful than that of 5G. The radiation of microwave oven at home is more harmful than that of the 5G. The radiation of even the smart phone itself is even more harmful than that of the 5G.”
He added: “As we were studying the technology, International bodies like ITU and WHO were also studying it.
“On the 25th September 2019, we conducted the first trial of 5G in Nigeria. In order to demonstrate trust and prove leadership by example, I personally pledged to make a trial so if there is any security implication or medical implication, then Isa would be number one victim.
“And if there is any relationship with COVID-19, I will be the first victim. To date I have not contracted the virus. And I did a test up to 10 times. So I did the trial personally.
“Mr President is very much aware of all these stages from the beginning to where we stopped.”