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Nigeria to Make Fiber Damage Illegal Following ₦27 Billion in Losses to MTN and Airtel in 2023

Nigeria’s Ministry of Works is on the verge of finalizing a new regulation aimed at criminalizing damage to fiber cables, following incidents that cost MTN and Airtel a combined total of ₦27 billion in losses. This upcoming rule will introduce harsher penalties for those responsible and will particularly target underground network cables. This initiative comes in response to existing laws that already penalize acts of vandalism, as reported by Bloomberg.

Vandalism has been a persistent issue in Nigeria, resulting in damages amounting to billions of dollars. This is especially problematic for the telecommunications sector, one of Nigeria’s most vital industries, where vandalism can lead to extensive service outages and significant financial setbacks.

Last year alone, MTN, Nigeria’s leading telecommunications provider, experienced over 6,000 incidents of fiber cuts across its network, causing numerous disruptions. Between 2022 and 2023, the company invested ₦11 billion to relocate 2,500 kilometers of fiber cables that were susceptible to damage. This situation prompted MTN to seek governmental intervention, as the financial burden to repair these broadband cables has reached into the billions of naira.

The new regulations will target construction firms, which are often responsible for damaging underground cables. In February, MTN users experienced outages lasting over five hours due to fibre damages at three separate locations caused by a road construction company, an oil service company, and a fire.

The telecommunications sector in Nigeria has been facing increased operating expenses following two devaluations of the Naira by the government, along with significant hikes in the prices of electricity and fuel. Last year, Airtel saw a 99% drop in profits after currency devaluation affected its major markets. Similarly, MTN posted a loss in 2023—the first in three years—attributing it to the devaluation of the Naira and higher business costs, resulting in a post-tax loss of ₦137.0 billion for the year, a stark contrast to the ₦348.7 billion profit recorded in 2022.

 

 

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