By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
The fight against Covid19 pandemic in the country has continued to be dogged by a bitter war between two superpowers, the United States and China’s quest to gain control of the 5G technology. Last week the media was awash with a report of the attempt by China to use the COVID-19 pandemic to steal the show on 5G.
It would be recalled that the coronavirus pandemic which first broke out in Wuhan, China in December 2018, was imported into the country on February 25, 2020, by an Italian contractor working for cement giant, Lafarge Nigeria. While the index case has been cured of the disease, Nigeria has recorded several more cases, with confirmed cases nearing the 300 marks as at Friday, April 10.
However, the fight against the disease in Nigeria is being hampered by the spread of deception, blatant falsehood and concoction of lies through the social media by gullible Nigerians, BusinessHallmark findings revealed.
Investigation revealed that hapless Nigerians are daily deluged with unverified, fake, unrelated and mostly doctored analysis, voice, text and even documentaries through popular messaging applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram explaining the origin of the rampaging coronavirus.
While some of the unverified claims alleged that Covid19 is a plot by Western powers, led by billionaire Bill Gates, to depopulate the World, particularly Africa, some also claimed that the deadly virus was an experiment that went awry. The most prominent theory blamed the 5G technology being deployed by China.
The situation worsened when notably Nigerians, particularly ethnic and religious leaders lend their voices to the existence of a plot to reduce Africa’s population through 5G technology. Most prominent among the scaremongers are Pastor Chris Oyakilome of the Believers World Ministry, popularly known as Christ Embassy and the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu.
Due to the endorsement of conspiracy theories by these influential leaders, many Nigerians have continued to disregard government and expert advice on ways to stop the spread of the disease. Some of them, who spoke to BH in Lagos, doubted the existence of Coronavirus, insisting it is the government’s conspiracy to steal money.
“Have you seen anyone killed by this disease? It is all lies. They want to collect huge money from the World Health Organisation and the United Nations”, declared Tosin Oluwadamilare, a commercial printer.
While many Nigerians, even educated ones have continued to hold on to unverified claims on the actual causes of coronavirus, BusinessHallmark’s findings traced the unnecessary hoax to the war to gain control of the 5G technology between the U.S and China and the quest by some religious leaders to keep their followers as well as winning much more fear through ‘end time’ preaching and prophecies.
According to some security experts who spoke with our correspondent, the 5G technology, which transmits huge amounts of data, can be likened to artillery.
“Gaining control of it, either by China or America, would vastly boost their political and military influence”, said Mr Tunde Roland, MD/CEO of Office Max, an IT security firm.
Findings show that China started the race to build the fight generation more than three years ago through Huawei, clearly leaving the U.S and other European countries far behind.
“5G developed so fast that the U.S. has struggled to access its potential for cybersecurity threats, Office Max CEO said.
According to Wikipedia, 5G or fifth-generation cellular wireless is a form of mobile communication and technical ground rules that outline how the network operates. It is the latest integration of mobile communication, building on the current 4G and standard LTE networks. The new 5G networks are powered by a brand new technology referred to as millimetre wave or mmWave.
5G networks bring faster connections with reduced latency and a higher data rate. Devices on the network will be able to work en masse in large crowds and transfer information in a fraction of the time, allowing a user to download a two-hour movie in 3.6 seconds on a 5G network, unlike on a 4G network which takes 6 minutes.
To crown it up, since 5G networks are building on top of rather than replacing the existing 4G and 4G LTE networks, users won’t be needing new phones. All existing phones will still be able to connect to 4G networks and operate just fine. They’ll even be able to connect to 5G networks and may see a slight boost in speed.
Huawei is the world’s biggest telecommunications network equipment supplier. Since its breakout contract in 2009 to build a 4G network in Norway, it has expanded operations to more than 170 countries, raking in $107 billion in revenue in 2018. In the third quarter of 2019, the company reported a revenue increase of nearly 25% year-on-year, thanks largely to smartphone sales, and said it has signed more than 60 contracts for 5G with international carriers.
Realising the huge potentials of the latest technology rolled out by the Chinese tech giant, many countries have embraced it, with many more willing to jump on board, to the chagrin of the Americans. BH findings revealed that the U.S decided to embark on a dirty war after losing the 5G war to China.
Several U.S officials have publicly expressed fears that Huawei’s 5G networks could be used by Chinese intelligence agencies to siphon sensitive information, prompting the U.S. government to prohibit all government agencies and telecommunications companies from using Chinese 5G technologies. The Trump administration also banned the award of manufacturing U.S.-made parts and software to Huawei in a move to hinder the Chinese company.
The chief operating officer of Huawei was also arrested in Canada through the instigation of the United States government for illegal financial transactions. Despite the U.S’s desperate efforts to halt or slow down the adoption of China’s 5G model, many countries have sought the help of Huawei and LTE to build their 5G and 6Gs infrastructure.
While Japan and Australia have both agreed to block Huawei and ZTE, other U.S. allies, like the U.K., Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and France, among many others have ignored U.S advice. Another ally, Germany, argued that completely banning the Chinese companies would be problematic.
“Huawei is already deeply embedded in 4G infrastructure in the U.K. and Germany. Even if we are required to block them from 5G, it will be difficult to do so,” some German experts told the Economist.
Several Asian and African countries have also either embraced the technology or considering it. For example, Cambodia will begin 5G services this year using Huawei gear, while in May, Malaysia and Thailand said that both Huawei and ZTE are welcome. Major telecoms in Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines have also signed up with the companies for their 5G rollouts.
In Africa, Nigeria and South Africa are considering 5G technology. Already, MTN Nigeria is using the 3.5G and 4G versions to test run the 5G model in Lagos and Abuja.
Though BH could not confirm the allegation, it learnt that the fear videos and messages linking 5G to coronavirus and other ailments, were traced to U.S disinformation agents, and unwittingly passed along by gullible Nigerians, suddenly surfaced when Chinese technology companies sought out non-American and European alternatives to avoid having their businesses disrupted.
Our Correspondent who went around Lagos to check the claims that the federal and the Lagos State governments locked down the state and the FCT to allow the clandestine laying of 5G cables, found out that the claims were far from the truth. During a visit to Ilupeju and Adeniyi Jones Avenue where the laying of cables was ongoing, BH discovered that the laying of cables started in October 2019, more than two months before the outbreak of coronavirus in December 2019.
A contractor for MTN who did not want his identity disclosed, debunked the rumour that they were using the cover of the lockdown to lay corona inducing 5G infrastructure.
“As you can see, we started our portion of the project from Town Planning Way and we are getting close to Obanikoro.
“It is quite impossible to have gone this far using manual labour in just one week. I can tell you that my team moved to the site in October last year immediately the rain subsided. The scope of work done so far can attest to that. This is also not for 5G. 5Gs infrastructure is closely knitted and not far from each other.
On why he and his men were on duty and not observing the lockdown, he said the telecoms sector, like other essential sectors, was excluded from the restriction exercise.
“Nigerians, consisting of individuals, government and businesses need our services to survive. It is like saying electricity workers, the media and security agencies should shut down. If we do that even for just one day, the whole country would be paralyzed”, he maintained.
Medical and engineering experts who spoke on the matter labelled tales of conspiracies circulating in the social media as mere fallacies, claiming there is no proven relationship between the introduction of 5G and the outbreak of the new virus.
A Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Department of Electrical and Information Engineering at Covenant University, Otta, Ogun State, Prof. Francis Idachaba, while sharing his views on his Facebook Page, wrote:
“The issue of radiation is unfounded. If the transmit power of the BTS is increased tremendously to overcome the Pathloss and increase the size of the cells, the transmit power also of the mobile users would have to be Increased tremendously to ensure a 2-way communication is achieved. This will mean returning us to bulky and heavy phones as the transmit power relies heavily on battery power,” he said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organisation web sites, studies have yet to provide any clear link between non-ionising radiation that all forms of radio signals generate, including cellphones to TV transmissions to traditional radio signals and human beings.
These studies, it was also found out, relate only to the possibility of the technology causing cancer after several years or decades of usage – not just one month.
The World Health Organisation Global Health Observatory (GHO) data on Electromagnetic fields (EMF), said EMFs are present everywhere in the human environment. Electric fields are produced by natural sources such as the local build-up of electric charges in the atmosphere associated with thunderstorms while the earth’s magnetic field is used by birds and fish for navigation.
Human-made sources include medical equipment using static fields (e.g. MRI), electric appliances using low frequency electric and magnetic fields (50/60 Hz), and various wireless, telecommunications and broadcasting equipment using high radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (100kHz-300 GHz).
“When properly used, electromagnetic fields greatly improve our quality of life, health and well-being. However, above certain levels, these fields can be harmful to health and affect the human body in different ways depending on their frequency. Therefore, countries have set standards to limit exposure to electromagnetic fields, either for specific frequencies and applications or over the whole electromagnetic field spectrum.
The world health agency said 80per cent of countries around the world have developed regulations on standards in line with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) standards. Similarly, a study by the WHO on Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) radiation from Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) and public health, said: “Considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.”
Also, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) which regulates the telecoms sector debunked claims that the outbreak of coronavirus in the country is linked to 5G. Its CEO, Prof. Garba Dambatta, said the technology is not yet in the country as the commission just conducted a trial of 5G last year with MTN Nigeria. He said the trials were done in three major cities of Lagos, Abuja and Calabar, Cross River State.
According to him, the essence of the trial was to ensure it met its expectation in terms of speed, capacity and latency, which help to ensure efficiency and improve the lives of the citizens. He noted that before the introduction of any technology into the country, it must embark on trials to know its strengths and weaknesses and to certify that it does not have any harmful impacts or hazardous effects on the health of the citizens.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Ibrahim Pantami, denied the issuance of 5G licence to any operator in the country. In the same vein, telecoms firms operating in the country allayed fears over the deployment of 5G in the country. The operator while speaking under the aegis of the Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), said instead of destroying the human race, 5G will to improve the day to day lives of people.