Nigeria seeks joint regional action to protect undersea cables

Following recent undersea cable cuts that challenged connectivity across countries in the West African region, Nigeria has called for a coordinated and multilateral approach to protect shared telecommunications infrastructure and diversification of connectivity to ensure uninterruptible connection.

Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr Aminu Maida, submitted a speech delivered at the 21st West Africa Telecommunications Regulatory Assembly (WATRA) Annual General Meeting (AGM), which was held in Freetown, Sierra Leone, from the 19th to 22nd March 2024.

Maida, whose message was delivered at by the Deputy Director, Public Affairs of the Commission, Nnenna Ukoha, said the recent submarine cable cuts that resulted in regional outage have raised the urgent need for the sub-region to establish a mechanism to protect itself from damage to submarine infrastructure and its attendant impact on the sub-region.

In a statement signed by the Director of Public Affairs, NCC, Reuben Muoka, Maida referenced a report by Cloudflare, an IT service management firm, which indicated that about six countries, including four West African countries, were still suffering from the outage caused by the submarine cable cuts.

“Securing telecoms infrastructure is paramount for fostering Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and enhancing investor confidence in the West African sub-region. The reliability and resilience of telecommunications networks are crucial factors that investors consider when evaluating regional opportunities.

“By ensuring the security of these vital assets, we can attract more investment, spur economic growth, and enhance our competitiveness on the global stage. A secure telecoms infrastructure not only facilitates efficient communication and connectivity but also signals a commitment to safeguarding critical assets essential for business operations. This assurance can significantly boost investor confidence and create a conducive environment for sustainable economic development,” he was quoted.

According to him, the impact of events like cable cuts highlights the need for a coordinated, multilateral approach to protecting shared infrastructure across our member nations.

Maida, therefore, proposed “the urgent need to set up a framework for joint monitoring, risk mitigation, and emergency response procedures for the submarine cables that pass through the sub-region.

“Further to this, we recommend that the WATRA Working Group on Infrastructure expand its mandate to spearhead the development of a comprehensive strategy to safeguard the subregion’s telecommunications networks and associated infrastructure thereby proactively bolstering resilience through improved disaster response protocols to better insulate ourselves from future disruptions.”

He advised that the goals of the working group would include strengthening sub-regional infrastructure resilience, promoting the diversification of the sub-regions connectivity, conducting regular capacity assessments as well as facilitating the designation of telecommunications infrastructure as critical national infrastructure in member countries.

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