It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this Third Regional Awareness and Sensitization Workshop on Electromagnetic Field Exposure and Health for the South-South and South-Eastregionsorganized by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to enlighten the public and other stakeholders on the issues of EMF Exposure and Health. This workshop is also intended to present a platform for cooperation between stakeholders in the Telecommunications Industry to reach an understanding towards putting into proper perspective the concerns most often expressed by the public on this matter.
We have held two international conferences on EMF and Health in the past and in continuation of the Commission’s engagement with stakeholders in the industry on the subject, we have decided to bring this information closer to the people.
In recent times, the Commission has noticed a steady increase in public concerns regarding the possiblenegative health effects of EMF radiation emanating from telecommunications equipment/infrastructure. The negative public inclination about this subject have in some cases led to agitation against the deployment of needed infrastructure to the detriment of quality of service delivery in the country.In response to these growing concerns and commitment to public safety, the Nigerian Communications Commission deems it necessary to organize this regional workshop.
Telecommunicationhas been an integral part of daily life; providing services ranging from telephony, entertainment, information and learning over a broad range of media. EMF from a variety of sources have always been present in our environment and according to WHO “scientific studies to date provide no indication that environmental exposures to RF fields such as from Base stations, increases the risk of cancer or any other disease” Itis pertinent at this point therefore, to make the distinction between two kinds of radiation often been confused with one another; namelyIonizing and Non-Ionizing radiation. But more importantlylet us note that the whole spectrum of telecommunications service delivery and indeed the focus of this workshop is solely on Non-Ionizing Radiation.
It is worth emphasizing that over the past fifteen years, we have experiencedtremendous growth in this sector with a tele-density of 110% and a GDP contribution of 8.5% to Nigeria’s economy as at November 2015. These feat would not have been achieved without the active collaboration of all relevant stakeholders and the healthy enabling environment provided by government.However, much as we aim to sustain this growthand as the industry continues to evolve, we are faced with various challenges that have hampered development in the sector in terms of infrastructure deployment.
The next evolution of the communications policy in Nigeria is BROADBAND penetration which will certainly require massive deployments in terms of critical infrastructure if we are to achieve the set target by government in 2018. Unfortunately, asignificant section of the un-informed public and in some cases other tiers and agencies of government often pose the most vehement opposition to the installation of critical telecommunications equipment because of the perceived adverse health effect of EMF emissions from such sources to humans.
The successes we have recorded over these years have also placedenormous burden on the industry. Consequently, I urge you all to take note of the following responsibilities that all stakeholders in the industry must bear as it affects telecommunication infrastructure and health concerns:-
1. The industry needs to deploy at least 50,000 more Base Transceiver Stations (BTSs) in addition to the current 38,000 already installed as at the end of second quarter of 2015. This critical network component is vital for thedelivery ofbetter Quality of Service (QoS) to the over 150 million active mobile subscribers recorded in the country as at November, 2015.
2. There is need forother responsible agencies and tiers of Government to expediterequisiteapprovals and processes needed for infrastructure deployment and site build.
4. Protection of critical telecommunication infrastructure by security agencies and the general public is very important.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) ensuresstrict adherence to Guidelines and Regulations issued by it to govern all aspects of telecommunications services, including the installation of Masts / Towers and radio frequency exposure limits.A Guideline on the Technical Specifications for the Installation of Masts and Towers was released in 2009 and non-compliance with the mandatory provisions of these guidelines constitutes a breach punishable under relevant provisions of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003; the Nigerian Communications (Enforcement Processes) Regulations 2005 and other applicable laws. It is important to note that the Commission’s policy regarding Collocation and Infrastructure Sharing has been issued and is aimed at reducing the proliferation and visual impact of telecommunication towersacross the country.
For this workshop, we have gathered experts in various relevant fields to deliberate, brainstorm and exchange ideas for the benefit of all stakeholdersin the next two days on current scientific findings on this important topic of EMF Exposure and Health.
We hope that the Workshop will provide a platform for policy makers, regulators, legislators, operators, mobile equipment manufacturers/vendors, consumer groups and other stakeholders to raise the level of understanding and awareness onthis issue.
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