John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Boko Haram Attacking Nigeria’s Mobile Phone Infrastructure

by John Campbell
September 11, 2012

Jamil Idriss charges 50 naira ($0.33) to recharge phone batteries using rows of three-pin sockets nailed to a plank of wood and plugged into a diesel generator in the Obalende District of Lagos May 20, 2010. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters) Jamil Idriss charges 50 naira ($0.33) to recharge phone batteries using rows of three-pin sockets nailed to a plank of wood and plugged into a diesel generator in the Obalende District of Lagos May 20, 2010. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)

This Day is reporting that Boko Haram operatives are staging “unrelenting” attacks on the telecommunications infrastructure, especially in the states of Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, and Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city. It reports that members of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), principally MTN, GLO, Airtel, and Etisalat, are threatening to suspend telecommunications services in the North. An ALTON spokesperson said at least twenty-five base stations belonging to its members have been destroyed, many of them hubs. A spokesman said that a base station costs between N500 million and N1 billion ($3 million-$6 million).

In effect, Nigeria has leapfrogged over telephone land lines to mobile phones. The conventional wisdom is that there are some ninety million cell phones in Nigeria, though multiple cell phone ownership is common and it is unclear how many people can afford the prepaid cards that are required. Nevertheless, the widespread use of cell phones is often cited by outsiders who are bullish about the economic future of Nigeria, and internet cafes are to be found all over the country. It is also unclear how many telecommunications users are in the North — most cell phones are to be found in other regions of the country — and how widespread the disruption in communication has been. This Day restricts its comment to “communication in the states through cell phones has been disrupted.”

It is unclear what the goal of these attacks is, beyond accusations that the cell companies are helping security services track the group. Boko Haram’s “martyred” founder, Mohammed Yusuf, did not reject modern technology, and, presumably, Boko Haram operatives also use cell phones.  If attacks on cell phone infrastructure continue, and if ALTON members do suspend service, the consequences will be dire for outside communication with the North. In a region characterized by high unemployment, the collapse of manufacturing and too little investment in agriculture, destruction of communication facilities can only make things worse for most people.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by ojo rotimi

    These are all pointers to division we have been avoiding.

  • Posted by IT consulting Pasadena

    Hacking is the big issue in whole world. Many countries spend lot of money to save their data from hacker. This blog is giving one of the example of hacking the whole telecommunication system in Nigeria. Very scary news for all of us because we never know when our cellphone become hacked?

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